Do you have a friend like me? Someone who goes to Disney World twice a year? Someone who has an “Empire Strikes Back” poster hanging in their house? Are all of their waffles shaped like Mickey Mouse? If so, there’s no better gift in streaming this year than Disney+. The company’s new service features all the new and classic movies and characters the Magic Kingdom has to offer: Iron Man, Buzz Lightyear and, of course, Baby Yoda. Disney+ is $6.99 a month — or half the price of a Netflix subscription.
The first thing I learned after our baby was born is that sleep is mostly just a dream for parents. The second thing I learned is that there is absolutely no end to the list of stuff you need to buy for your sweet cooing financial sinkhole, including a camera to surveil your stupidly fragile nugget while they sleep. You could spend $300 on a Nest Cam or $400 on an Owlet Cam — or you could buy the Wyze Cam for $25. It was built by a group of former Amazon employees, covers most of the basics of what you need (Video feed? Check. Accessible on your phone? Check) and, best of all, leaves you with a couple hundred extra bucks to spend on diapers and baby food.
Google Nest Mini
I bought the Nest Mini speaker on sale for $29, and it was one of the best, smartest purchases I’ve made. Google jam-packs this thing with all kinds of kids’ entertainment: Frozen stories, Halloween jokes, Mickey Mouse choose-your-own-adventure, Stranger Things games, freeze dance, mad-libs. My kids are obsessed with it, and they’re interacting (and not using a screen)! And for me, I get access to the entire internet, asking Google random facts with my voice instead of pulling my phone out all the time. It’s a decent little speaker for music and podcasts, too.
I’m always looking for ways to reduce my single-use plastic consumption. I recently became hooked on Blueland, which makes cleaning products in reusable packaging. (It costs $40 for the starter kit with several glass bottles; you add water and a tablet to form the mixture. Replacement tablets are $2, so you save a ton in the long run.) Their hand soap is amazing, smells great and foams so well — it’s like a little cloud in your hand. Unlike some other eco-friendly cleaning products, Blueland works phenomenally well. I’m gifting the starter kit to all my loved ones.
Ember coffee mug
I sip my coffee slowly so it’s routinely lukewarm by the time I get halfway through it. For my birthday, my soon-to-be mother-in-law got me an Ember mug ($99), which keeps my coffee warm until I finish it without multiple trips to the microwave for reheating. I can also set the specific temperature I want. It makes my mornings so much easier.
I initially resisted buying AirPods because I thought they were just another overpriced Apple product (and at $159, they are). But because I travel often for work, I realized a lot of my time was spent untangling my old headphones in airplanes. Despite the small size of the wireless earbuds, I don’t often lose them and they did survive several rounds in the washing machine (and tumble dryer). That is, until I eventually needed to bring my right Pod to the Genius Bar for a $69 visit.
If you’re going to splurge on AirPods, spend the additional $90 for the new Pro model (sorry, Donie). Apple recently redesigned the earbuds with noise-cancelling technology and it makes a major difference. The AirPods Pro impressively drowns out all the sirens and traffic during my busy commute (and offers a transparency mode for when you want to hear the background noise). I love the interchangeable silicone tips, too — so much better than the hard and plastic-y feel of traditional AirPods.
Garmin Forerunner 235
I’m late to the smartwatch game because being more connected hasn’t necessarily been an aspiration for me, but the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($169) is a pleasant entry. It’s not overwhelming on features (apps are mostly limited to fitness tracking and you need to be connected to your phone for most things) but has just enough (message notifications, heart-rate and sleep monitoring) to give me a taste if I ever decide to go all in. I’m a biker, so it’s been especially convenient having a GPS device on my wrist that I can start with a push of a button and sync to an app like Strava.
Nintendo Switch Lite
The Nintendo Switch was this Black Friday’s best selling product for good reason: It can be handheld or plugged into a TV, has a bunch of exclusive games and works offline. But at $299, it’s expensive. The Nintendo Switch Lite is $100 less, lighter and a lot easier to grip than the original Switch. It can’t be docked onto a TV, but that doesn’t bother me: I can still game in bed all day or whip it out during a long commute to catch an extra couple of Pokemon.
I recently bought a Lumos Matrix helmet ($229) with built-in lights to make riding my bike at night a lot safer and less stressful. It’s a constant pain point for bikers and scooter riders like me to make sure distracted drivers see you, especially when it’s dark. This definitely helps.
Peloton (and bluetooth headphones)
My wife and I had three kids in two years and I needed to get back into working out for my physical and mental health. The $2000 price tag for a Peloton bike was obviously steep, but it’s worth every penny. Even if you don’t buy the bike or treadmill, the $40 a month subscription gets you access to yoga and cardio classes, mediation sessions and audio runs. When I ride, I use $19 Letsfit bluetooth headphones, which look very similar to more expensive brands, but it sounds great, battery life is good and handles the sweat.
Chevy Bolt EV, LT model
While a $37,000 electric car may not be the kind of item that’s on most people’s holiday wish lists, it is the technology that most changed my life for the better this year. My family bought our first EV, a Chevy Bolt, this summer, and found it fun to drive, quick to juice up with the ChargePoint charging station we installed in the garage, and full of useful stats about how economically (or not, in my case) we’re using it. The best part? We haven’t stopped at a gas station since.
Bonus: Goodreads app
Although this isn’t a gift, the free Goodreads app is a gamechanger. At the beginning of 2019, I promised myself I’d read at least one new book every month. I set a goal of 12 books on Goodreads and used it to track my progress, keep a list of books I’m interested in and check out what friends and others on the app were recommending. I read 35 books this year! (That’s up from five books last year.) At a time when social media platforms are criticized for being toxic, Goodreads feels like one of the rare feel-good social networks.