Hey, it’s that time of the year again. Your hard-earned money isn’t going to spend itself so I’m here to help. You’re welcome.
The central theme for the gift guide this year is building routines and trying to live a calmer, more creative and organized life. Maybe these gift ideas will help.
The Coffee Stuff
Unless you’re super healthy and get a full eight hours of sleep, you’ll need a dose of caffeine in the morning. And we can leverage this reality by crafting a routine around it.
AeroPress Coffee Maker / ~$30
I’m recommending an AeroPress coffee maker, a cheap yet versatile way to brew coffee. There are so many crazy ways to make coffee with this thing that it actually helps you learn more about the craft. Brew longer for a more acidic coffee, or flip the AeroPress upside down for more pressure, switch out the paper filter for a metal one to get coffee that has more oil.
I’m also recommending a hand-crank coffee grinder. It’s super affordable, yet well-built. It’s slow and manual, yes, but that is almost the point. Sometimes, doing things the slow and hard way is so much more satisfying.
Now hopefully, if you want to, you’ll have a contemplative and meditative routine of grinding your beans and brewing them just right every morning. It’s a great way to start your day, and a great way to get your head in the right place.
The Reading Stuff
So what’s next? Well, you need something to read while drinking that cup of coffee.
For that, I’m recommending an RSS service and an e-reader. At this point, we all know that the world is noisy. Every social media timeline is algorithmic, with the explicit goal of feeding us the most sensational and probably crappy content possible. It’s near impossible to just consume the stuff we want, or actually sit down and read a book without distractions.
Feedbin / $60 per year
First, let’s go over the RSS services. I’m recommending Feedbin for most people and Miniflux for the hardcore nerd. Feedbin is more expensive, but more polished and very Apple-y — it just works. Put in your favorite feeds (yup, you are the curator of your media diet), and read just the stuff you want from your favorite publications and writers every morning.
Miniflux / $15 per year
However, for the tinkerer looking for more control, I recommend Miniflux. It’s loads cheaper and but struggles with a horrible interface and poor experience out of the box. Despite that, it comes with a two crucial features: the ability to fetch the full article (no more reading an excerpt then being forced to jump into the full site), as well as being able to specify what content to fetch from the site. Yeah, this is some nerdy stuff, but if you want control, I guess you’ll have to settle for this.
Kobo / ~$30–40
Next, the e-reader. As I mentioned above, it’s basically impossible to read books now. If you attempt to read on your phone or your tablet, notifications will sidetrack you within minutes. Gratification, when it’s not instant, is no competition for Instagram or YouTube. The only way is to completely disconnect by reading on an e-reader.
I recommend any random Kobo (with backlighting) you can find on Amazon or eBay. It works just like any Kindle, except you can easily just drop any ebooks into it without going through Amazon, and it’s crazy cheap. You’ll find a new one for around $40, which I think is a steal when Kindle equivalents are over $100.
Now, for the odds and ends. A pressure cooker and a smart speaker.
Instant Pot / ~$80
A crucial part living a happy life (I think) is being able to cook for yourself. The Instant Pot is a life-changing, both in what it can do, and what it can ignite.
First, let’s talk about it can do. This thing can cook with so much pressure (there’s so much pressure you can make bombs out of this kind of thing, see: Boston). This much pressure means you can cook rice in 4 minutes (a regular rice cooker takes 20 minutes), or you can get soft stewed meat in 30 minutes (as opposed to 6 hours), and so on. It’s pretty incredible.
Second, it’s so easy. There’s no mess to clean, you’re not even really cooking. This makes it a great starting point for those who want to get started cooking. You don’t have to worry about burning stuff in the pan or all the steps of a recipe. Just chop stuff up, dump them into the pot, and press some buttons.
Google Nest Mini / ~$35
Ok, now for the Nest Mini. Well, it used to be called the Google Home Mini, now it’s the Nest Mini and it has more colors. I’d recommend Coral (pink-red) or Aqua (blue). The Google hardware team makes the most well-designed products for the home. They are warm, soft, and welcoming. As for the software team, the Home Mini is so good at understanding human speech — you don’t have to speak in syntax like you would with Alexa. This is great for timers, for playing Spotify, and for asking basic questions about the weather and traffic.
And lastly, the fun stuff:
I’m recommending two board games this year. The first is those who are more competitive, who want an actual game with points and strategy.
In Boss Monster, players try to build the a dungeon and lure in heroes, and try kill them to collect points. The first player to kill a certain number of heroes win. The fun starts when you start trying to sabotage others or come up with novel ways to build your dungeon.
This game is simple enough to learn in 10 minutes and has ample mechanics to keep your competitive friends happy.
However, if you’re looking for something less traditional, but more of party game, I wholeheartedly recommend Deception: Murder in Hong Kong.
Imagine Avalon, but more complex and creative, and Werewolves/Mafia, with fewer people. It’s great fun to attempt to trick and manipulate your friends, and it has the added benefit of creativity, where you have to come up with interesting ways a murder could’ve taken place.