Ask anyone in my family: I used to be notorious for my terrible holiday gifts. Christmas would roll around (and I’d roll out of bed, two hours before my flight home), and I’d have to scramble to find last-minute presents lying around my apartment to stuff into my luggage before hailing a cab to LaGuardia Airport: an old, itchy sweater from the back of my closet for my brother; another old, itchy sweater from the back of my closet for my father; maybe a free cookbook I had gotten from work for my mother (who doesn’t even cook from cookbooks).
All of this changed when we entered the digital age. With same-day delivery in most cities, Christmas for me has become so much easier in the gifting realm. Being an online shopper, too, has meant that I spend the year discovering, one by one, perfect everyday products that become my own personal favorites. The best coffee tumbler I’ve ever owned, for instance, or the lightest, most comfortable bathrobe of all time (to pair with my latest habit, which is a nightly soak in the bathtub with a glass of wine and Netflix).
I’ve gathered below the things I’ve bought for myself this year, products that have utterly changed my day-to-day. These are the gifts that I’ve gifted, in turn, to everyone else in my life—because I’m confident about them and already know how smart, useful, and life-changing they are.
1. This Super Smart One-Hand Vacuum Flask, Because No One Has Two Hands In The Morning
In addition to the old-fashioned fishing-with-grandpa design of this coffee “mug” (as it’s labeled on Amazon, for some reason), what I love most about this thermos is that it has a single button on the lid, which you can push with your thumb, allowing you to open, sip, and close with one hand. This has proven immeasurably useful on many a harried morning running down the street to catch the train. And then again, once on the train, as I always need one hand to hold onto a pole and the other to drink my morning elixir.
Needless to say, yes, it is also very good at keeping coffee hot.
Get the 16-ounce flask for $43.73 on Amazon (sizes also come in 12-ounce and 20-ounce, and in other colors).
2. This Cozy-As-Heck Kimono Bathrobe, Because You’re Worth It
When I moved into my new apartment, I had for the first time a bathtub that didn’t have pre-war stains and previous signs of life. It was, instead, brand new and deeply set, and most importantly, had a faucet that was probably installed incorrectly because it spews water so scalding that it can hard-boil an egg. This hot spa water was yet another reason to take up that hygge life and start taking as many baths as I could.
Oh, back to the bathrobe: I was in search of one that I could wear after coming out of the tub (to pet my dog, to answer the door, to get more wine) and found that so many on the market are super heavy, bulky, and sweat-inducing, which is, the last time I checked, the exact opposite of being clean and comfy. This kimono-style robe, in addition to being super soft and lightweight, even has pockets, perfect for stealing away cookies and other tasty snacks for later.
Get a small robe for $32.99 on Amazon (sizes come in medium, large, x-large, and xx-large as well, and in other colors).
3. This “Forever” Umbrella, Because Sometimes Good Things Do Last
There was a point in my life when I gave up on umbrellas completely. It didn’t help that I had a very cool, very suave friend from Portland who told me one cold, rainy day (in his Patagonia hard shell jacket and Wellingtons) that he didn’t believe in umbrellas—so of course, I stopped believing in them, too. But if you live in a city like New York where you have to walk everywhere, there’s no denying that an umbrella can be useful. The issue is that there’s a 99 percent chance of it flipping inside out and leaving you floundering in the middle of the street, soaking wet, trying to get the darn thing to un-invert. Umbrellas are the worst.
This one isn’t. I’ve had the same one for the last four or five years now, and it’s never failed me once. It’s just, I don’t know, really sturdy? The best part of it is, I suppose, the single button on the handle that SHOOTS open the umbrella like a Harry Potter spell (absolute zero need for your second hand)—and, get this, it even collapses on its own when you hit that button again. Save money on all those cheap $5 umbrellas you keep getting and get this one for forever.
The black model is $16.99 on Amazon, but there are other colors to choose from.
4. The 3-Quart Instant Pot, Because It’ll Change Your Weeknight-Cooking Game
This won’t be another love letter to the Instant Pot, I promise, or even a scientific case for why you should be cooking in one ASAP. But I do want to talk about a category of gifts that’s especially important around the holidays: things you wouldn’t necessarily run out and buy for yourself. Though in a couple more years I predict most serious home cooks will own an Instant Pot, I think for now it’s the sort of purchase that happens with a nudge and a push. I have a few family members in mind whose daily lives would benefit greatly from the Instant Pot, which has converted me from three-hour Dutch-oven braises to 40-minute pressure-cooked dinners (especially because the latter comes out so much softer). It’s even replaced my 10-year-old rice cooker’s spot on the kitchen counter. (Don’t tell my mom that.)
The reason I specify the 3-quart size (the smallest model) is because it cooks up plenty of food, should you be of the camp that doesn’t need another appliance taking up counter space. Which is great if you’re gifting to someone who lives in a household of one, two, or even four—but especially to someone who doesn’t want to commit to the massive 8-quart model.
The mini Instant Pot goes for $79.99 on Amazon, and it’s pretty darn cute.
5. Pilo Fabric Shaver, $50
Goodnight, goodbye, and see-you-never sweater pills. This ingenious little gadget swiftly removes balled-up bits of fabric from well-loved items like sweaters, fleece pants, and even couches. We recommend taking before and after photos… it’s so, so satisfying.
A humidifier that comes along for the ride? Yes. Well perhaps we’re not going all that many places these days, but this guy goes from bedroom to living room with ease.
7. Olive & June Pedicure in a Box, $70
If you’ve ever attempted your own pedicure, you know just how frustrating it is to get the right toe-painting angle without throwing your back out. This box not only holds everything you need for a salon-grade job, but it’s an ergonomic pedestal to save yourself from awkward contortions.
8. Phone & Accessory Sanitizing Tray, $100
If you, too, shudder at the thought of all the bacteria that exists on the humble cellphone (especially after the year we’ve had), then this is the perfect gift for a loved one—or yourself, tbh. Its powerful UV light kills 99.9 percent of germs in five minutes, also extinguishing the gripping fear of phone germs.
9. Lumi Mini Projector, $65
This small-but-mighty projector can set up shop anywhere—making any wall or flat surface the optimal movie (or game, TV show, Youtube video) viewing area.
10. USB Rechargeable Lighters, $45
Fumbling with matches before they burn your hands? No. Replacing lighter fluid? Never. These USB rechargeable lighters are a bunch of problems solved, all wrapped up in gem-like colors.
11. Self Heating Ceramic Mug, $75
For those that walk away from their morning cup of coffee only to reheat it thrice during the day: a mug that remains hot for as long as it’s in use.
12. Grady’s Cold Brew Kit, $28.98
A lack of commute means a lack of coffee shops along the way in the morning, but it certainly doesn’t mean one has to sacrifice that satisfying jolt of caffeination. Grady’s cold brew kits produce smooth, spiced, slightly sweet cold brew that’ll knock your socks off—in the best way.
13. The Laundress Best Sellers, $69.75
Anyone who loves clean clothes likely loves The Laundress products. They’re eco-friendly, work really well, and have elevated scents. Plus, it’s smart to spoil someone with their new go-to—they’ll think of you on every laundry day!
14. Towel Pillow Cover, $24
Showering before bed is both a blessing and a curse—a clean body means fresher sheets, but wet hair means an uncomfortable pillow situation. This microfiber pillow cover acts as a hair towel to absorb excess moisture and keep your pillow dry, all while being super gentle on wet hair.
15. Coravin, $199.99
No need to pop a new bottle of wine for one after-work glass. This gadget pokes through the cork to dispense a perfect pour, and after, the cork closes back up to preserve the wine that’s left in the bottle.
16. New Book Pages Candle, $18.95
If you don’t go crazy for the smell of a new book, keep scrollin’. But, if you’re like us, one of life’s greatest pleasures is cracking open some fresh pages and plunging your nose in. This candle magically replicates that scent and accompanying feeling—a Christmas miracle.
17. Magnetic Notebook, $30
There’s simply nothing worse than starting a notebook off on the wrong foot, i.e. the wrong page. This nifty with a capital ‘N’ notebook solves that dilemma with magnetic pages for endless rearranging and replacing.
18. Weighted Charging Cable, $39.99
Phone cords that slide off the bed and into the depths, be gone! This weighted charging cable not only stays perched where it belongs, but it’s long enough for you to toss and turn all over the mattress, phone still in hand. An insomniac’s… dream! Ha!
19. Airpods, $249
Okay, what’s clever about this gift, you ask? Well, did they see this generosity and practicality coming? Nope! And would they ever turn down one of the most-loved tech inventions of the past five years? Doubtful.
20. Five Two Over the Sink Drying Rack, $45
No dishwasher, no problem. Well, okay, dishwashers are cool. But, this drying rack makes the lack of one so much more bearable. It folds up for easy storage and hangs out over the sink so as not to take up precious counter space—plus that way, all drips fall right back into the sink (and not onto the counter).
21. Collins Glass Ice Tray, $25
Fast-melting ice is a bummer for whiskey, sure, but it also stinks for iced coffee, juice, and soda. These sizable cubes meant for collins glasses work just well in a variety of situations, and don’t take up all that much freezer space, either.
The cleverest thing about these water bottles? They’re truly good looking—not just all function all the time. They do function incredibly well, too, though.
23. Handheld Pepper Grinder, $45
Cacio e pepe has literally never been easier—despite how easy it already is—since only one hand is needed to shower the pasta (or anything else) with freshly ground pepper.
What are some very clever, very useful gifts you love giving to people during the holidays? Let us know in the comments below.
This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns a commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
This post was updated in November 2020 to add more of the clever-est gifties.