If, like me, your 2017 holiday budget is closer to Khalid’s “Young Dumb and Broke” than Cardi B’s “Money Moves,” you might be wondering how you can swing some sweet gifts. Never fear! Just because you’re fretting about student loans and insurance premiums doesn’t mean you can’t own Secret Santa, or make your loved ones feel seen and appreciated. All of these gifts are under $20, but none of them skimp on sincerity.
We all know the iconic Stanley thermos, but have you met its #liveauthentic cousin, the Stanley Adventure Flask? It holds 80z, or about 5 shots of liquid courage and is leak-proof so you won’t lose your luck. Its seriously rugged construction means it’s not the end of the world if you drop it on a rock, toss it in the bottom of your bag, or kick it around the floor of a canoe. The only downside is that it isn’t designed to hold heat, so save the hot toddies for your Classic Stanley thermos. Whether you spend weekends sitting by a campfire, rocking out at music festivals, or cheering on your team in sports arenas, this flask will keep your favorite drink on hand and ‘gram ready.
Speaking of Instagram, a buoyant Go-Pro accessory will ensure your adventurous friend doesn’t lose his or her sweet shots at the bottom of the drink. It’s got an extra-grippy material on the handle, has a hollowed out space for your stash, and a wrist strap for extra security. Suptig’s handle is brightly colored in case you do drop it, and is designed to float to the surface. It also has a 24 month warrantee, but it’s not likely you’ll need to cash it in with its serious stainless steel and polycarbonate construction. Perfect for your one friend who is always on a scuba adventure, or for the sort of hazy pool parties that sometimes turn into foam parties.
Did you fall in love with a Beatles scholar? Have a colleague who Morrisey cancelled on, again? Are you part of a friendship rooted in debating the merits of Pavement’s Wowie Zowie versus Slanted and Enchanted? Still mourning Bowie? Pick up an item from the 33 ⅓ book series. These little volumes are packed with music lore that any wax geek, cassette tape disciple, or festival freak can get off on. They’re not just for rockers, ravers, and rappers either. If you know someone who is still riding the high of fresh Twin Peaks episodes, there’s a soundtrack story for them, too.
No matter where you sit on the culinary spectrum, everyone needs a Lodge skillet. Whether you’re a college grad stocking your first apartment, a car camper, or a fussy Food Network addict, it’s vital. The 10 inch is one of the most versatile sizes, a workhorse that will take you from scrambling eggs to frying chicken cutlets to sautéing onions– even baking small pies or a batch of cornbread. You can use it on an electric range or gas or even over the campfire. And if your recipient already has a cast iron skillet in his or her kitchen, they might appreciate a cleaning kit to keep it perfectly seasoned between meals. Lodge also makes all kinds of other goodies, from a grill press for burgers to muffin tins.
These smaller size candles are easy to tuck into a stocking or gift bag, or even the suitcase of your friend who travels frequently and likes to feel at home on the road. Best of all, you can easily reuse the trendy concrete container when the candle burns down. Either pour another candle into it to keep the party going, or repurpose it as a home for an air-freshening succulent. My personal favorite is the Tobacco and Patchouli– it’s warm and inviting without smelling like a Dead show– but the others are equally refreshing. Driftwood and Indigo is delightfully natural, Bergamot and Mahogany is comfortingly masculine, and they’re all soy wax and American-made so you’re free of holiday ethical hangups.
Glow on for $10.44
Nostalgic for the 90s and the lost art of mixtapes? This USB flash drive lets you swap music (or any other files you might fancy) with all the sentimental style of an old school cassette. It even comes with a case on which you can pen the contents. As Rob Sheffield once wrote “there are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one,” from “the party tape” to “we’re doing it? awesome!” to “the road trip” to doing the dishes”. The Mashtape is a handy holiday gift in that you can pack it with songs (about 2,000, give or take) you just know your recipient needs to hear, but it can be reused again and again thanks to modern USB technology.
Given the year that the New York Public transit system has had, and the disappointment Boston’s Big Dig turned out to be, biking to work looks more attractive than ever. Or perhaps you might find that a rails to trails network like Atlanta’s Beltline has gone in near your neighborhood, or that you’d like to get some sweet Boomerang footage of you jumping your mountain bike against a golden Colorado backdrop. Whatever relationship your recipient might have to the humble bicycle, this tiny tool will keep it in tip top shape. It’s lightweight, sturdy, and has an array of hex and allen drivers and a phillips head screwdriver for tightening nuts and bolts, lowering or raising your seat, or just about any other adjustment short of fixing the chain. It even comes with a little neoprene case.
From the Grand Tetons National Park to Central Park or from the beach to your front porch, you never know where a good hammock might come in handy. So give the gift of relaxation for less than the cost of a massage at less than the weight of a paperback. It comes with sturdy stainless steel hooks for use with hammock straps or other means to swing loose, can hold up to 250 pounds, and packs into its own attached stuff sack. It’s also the perfect hint to drop if you know someone who needs to unplug, or if you’re hoping to have a buddy for your upcoming micro adventures.
Know a fitness junkie looking for new ways to keep workouts interesting? Parkour training dice literally shakes up your morning run and keep routines fresh. The five dice each correspond to different surfaces, and each side of the dice have different moves. A shake of the dice (and a quick look at the instruction book), and then it’s up to you to vault, swing, cartwheel and more off walls, rails, and flat terrain. Whether the fitness fan in your life is new to parkour or looking for a new challenge in the concrete journal, these dice will spice things up.
Is 2018 the time to knock out your beloved’s student loans? New baby cramping your friends’ former foodie aspirations? Chronic illness making gourmet inaccessible for a co-worker? Don’t let date night die a slow death. This cookbook will help keep the romance alive without the pain of putting on pants. It breaks recipes down in a way even newbie cooks can feel confident about, and leads you through several courses like you’d enjoy at a fancy restaurant. It was made by a busy, young, creative couple who has so been there and gets that sometimes you need to think outside the take-out box when it comes to dining. Pair with a package of fancy artisan pasta, some gourmet olives, or a bottle of wine for a little extra punch.
Speaking of getting hot in the kitchen, this Ghost Pepper hot sauce is perfect for foodies, adventurous eaters, and hot sauce fanatics. This small batch sauce had humble origins, cooked up in a small coffee shop kitchen after hours, and now it’s winning national awards from New York to Louisiana. The Ghost Pepper iteration is their most thrilling yet, spicy without losing sight of a full range of flavor and enhanced with smokey chipotles, garlic, and vinegar. If that sounds like too wild a ride, there is also the original Hoff Sauce formula, made up of jalapeño, habanero, and chipotle, that goes great on everything from chilaquiles to popcorn. And for those who want the gentlest possible tang, their Mean Green sauce involves not only green jalapeños, but parsley and lemongrass– try it on seafood!
For travel hounds or someone looking to move to the next hot millennial mecca, Belt Publishing’s Rust Belt anthologies offer an inside look at what makes these old cities special. Part travel guide, part travel writing, and all heart, these anthologies will make you nostalgic for grungy mid-80s music venues near Lake Eerie, and will give you a great sense of where to go for a stroll next time your business trip destination is more Motown than Miami. From Pittsburgh to Akron to Buffalo to Detroit and Chicago, celebrate a loved one’s hometown, or where they might go to escape rising rents in their current burgh.
Wander and wonder for $15.68
Baking Christmas cookies is one of the best parts of the whole holiday season. But why not give this tradition a grown-up twist by making tasty edible treats in an iconic cannabis shape? If seven bucks seems like too little to spend, round this gift out by rolling your own treat bag with pot leaf chocolate molds some top-shelf butter or some extra fancy ingredients like Madagascar vanilla to make the kind of Christmas cookies that could land on the front cover of a Martha Stewart magazine. Trust me, “Santa” will thank you when you leave these Scoobie Snacks out with that glass of milk.
For when regular drip coffee just won’t do, this handsome stovetop espresso pot will wake up your caffeine junkie with a holiday wishlist. It has an extra large handle so you don’t singe your fingers, it makes six demitasse cups so you can fuel a breakfast party or a serious Stranger Things binge, and there’s a safety valve for the absent minded home barista. It works on glass top or gas stoves– and thanks to the handle design, you’re less likely to melt the plastic parts over an open flame. So cut back on all those coffee shop visits and stay in where it’s cozy. Hygee indeed!
It seems like everyone has a sweet custom cornhole set by now, but those can often be too bulky for anything but a back yard or a full-fledged tail gate setup. So what’s a game lover to do on the go? If you’d like something a little more chill than frisbee, try bocce. The classic Italian lawn bowling game is easy to get the hang of, and like corn hole can be safely played near campfires, tents, and other hazards. Tote this light-weight bocce set to the beach, open office, campsite, beer garden, or the courtyard at your friend’s fancy apartment.