Once upon a time, “buying” dad a Christmas gift meant letting mom pick out something nice. And then signing your name to the tag after she wrapped it. You were a kid, and it was easy. Less so for mom, of course, who had to pick up your slack and buy extra gifts for “dad” from the kids.
Well, now you’re the dad. And that same scenario, whether you realize it or not, is currently playing itself out behind the scenes in your house. Every time you tell your spouse or kids, “I’m fine with nothing,” when they ask what you want for Christmas, you aren’t helping anybody. So stop. And take a look at this list of holiday gifts, each of which costs $50 or less, and pick a couple of favorites. It’s that simple. And best of all, there’s something on there for every kind of dad, from a cast-iron skillet, Star Wars lamp, and keychain charger, to a cardboard pinball, and a clever steel koozie that hides beer bottles.
At first glance, Meem looks like a charging cable swallowed a jumpdrive. And in this case, looks are not deceiving — there’s 16GB/32GB of encrypted storage integrated into the cord on which you can backup the contents of your phone or tablet (contacts, calendar, photos, videos, and messages) every time you charge it.
A far cry from the dorky Armitron wrist-wear of your youth, this affordable digital square watch (that sort of looks like an Apple Watch) is water-resistant and rocks all your basic functions including chronograph (with lap time), alarm, and countdown timer. It’s a great holiday gift that comes in one of nine colors.
Written by author and comedian Doogie Horner ⏤ who claims to have seen Die Hard a 102 times ⏤ and illustrated by JJ Harrison, this 32-page ode to one of the greatest action (if not Christmas) movies of all time is filled with mildly violent but vibrant illustrations and playful, rhyming narration. The drama jumps off the page with lines like:“He put a Santa hat on the German, and, eyes all aglow, wrote “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho.”
‘Star Wars’ LED Lamps
These 9-inch Star Wars LED lamps will definitely (Jedi mind) trick eyes as they transform from a flat piece of etched acrylic glass into an illuminated 3D hologram of a popular character (or ship) from the franchise ⏤ be it Darth Vader, BB-8, or the Millenium Falcon. They can toggle between one of eight colors, have a lifespan of 50,000 hours, and are advertised as “limited-edition,” even though they’re seemingly sold all over the Internet and don’t appear to be in short supply.
For the man who struggles with his short game, this portable trainer — which can be used inside or out and without a ball — teaches golfers how to hit the perfect chip shot in no time at all. It also makes an excellent holiday gift.
At first glance, Yaket Ice looks like a standard reusable ice pack wrapped in a giant rubber band, but there’s more to this reinvented ice pack than first meets the eye. It’s actually a patent-pending, high-performance six-can chiller that stands apart from the rest of the … pack … thanks to three features of note: it’s taller, longer, and heavier than standard double-sided coolants (9.9-inches by 3.25-inches by 5-inches). Bonus: it’s also designed to hug almost the entire can of beer or baby’s bottle while still fitting in all the best coolers.
Gerber Suspension Multitool
The do-anything-in-a-pinch classic packs 12 tools ⏤ from needle-nose pliers and serrated-edge knife to a crosspoint screwdriver and a saw ⏤ into a compact 6-inch pocket-friendly package.
Probably the cheapest entry into the smart home market out there, the Google Home Mini lets you control the thermostat, listen to music, or queue up Stranger Things ⏤ all with a few choice voice commands. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better holiday gift out there.
KinderPerfect is essentially Cards Against Humanity for parents. Every one of the card game‘s 400 cards (which are crowdsourced from parents) poses a question or scenario that every parent can relate to ⏤ i.e. Why does mommy drink?, We were late to the school bus because ________, and What is smeared on the wall? ⏤ and play is exactly the same. Like parenthood, let the painful and cringe-worthy moments ensue.
The Cover Clamp
It might look like a MacGyvered pair of jumper cables (mostly because it does), but the Cover Clamp actually a heavy duty 2-inch spring clamp padded with a “sticky” rubber guard designed to hold blankets/sheets in place no matter how hard you pull on them through the night. Consider it a holiday gift ally in your ongoing bedtime battles.
Cast Iron Pan
Fact: No kitchen is complete without a good cast iron skillet. This 12-inch pan from Lodge fits the bill and rocks a silicone handle to prevent palm-blistering burns when you excitedly taking your seared Rib Eye out of the oven. Is there a better holiday gift when it comes to kitchen gear?
Rabing Mini Foldable RC Drone
This tiny drone is one of the few its size that includes a built-in camera. And while, no, you won’t be using this holiday gift to shoot any big-budget Hollywood productions, it’ll capture the kids playing Leafbag Football in the front yard just fine. You can also pop your smartphone into the remote control so you get an aerial view while flying.
This is literally a cup holder that wraps over the arm of your sofa so you can keep your beverage close. What else do you need to know? Fine: It’s made of flexible non-slip silicone, bends to fit almost any size/shape couch arm, and stays in place thanks to weighted sides.
Klein Tools Non-Contact Voltage Tester
Save yourself from the dangerous guesswork of figuring out which wires are live, not to mention from electrocution, with Klein Tools’ non-contact voltage tester. Just get it close and it automatically detects low voltage (12-48V AC) and standard voltage (48-1000V AC).
Yeti LoadOut 5-Gallon Bucket
Never underestimate the appeal of a rugged, easy-to-carry 5-gallon bucket with tie-down slots and a non-slip bottom. Ever. Especially if it can also safely hold food.
This ingenious bottle holder will keep any standard-sized beer bottle safe and cold, whether camping, tailgating, or kicking back at the beach. Better still, you’d never know there was beer inside ⏤ it looks like a standard water bottle. There’s a bottle opener attached and the top reseals open bottles with no spills.
UE ROLL 2 Bluetooth Speaker
The new version of the UE ROLL Bluetooth speaker isn’t just louder, it also has a longer range and is completely waterproof. In fact, it even comes with its own floatie so the holiday gift can be brought into the pool or bath.
Plazmatic X Rechargeable Lighter
Be it for starting a Cuban or lighting citronella candles, a good lighter is a necessary tool. Might we suggest this sleek flameless rechargeable lighter, which uses a purple arc of electricity, to get the job done? This holiday gift contains zero butane of fluids and gets about 100 lights per charge.
American Seafood: Heritage, Culture & Cookery From Sea to Shining Sea
One needn’t have once worked as a whaler off Cape Cod to appreciate this hardcover coffee-table book/love letter to American fishing culture. It explores everything from freshwater ecosystems to preservation to the future of fishing.
Corkcicle Arctican Can Koozie
The ideal complement to the aforementioned BottleKeeper (dad drinks from cans too), the Corkcicle Classic Artican is made of double-walled stainless steel and keeps suds cold for up to three hours.
ThermoPop Meat Thermometer
Don’t play guessing games with that beauty of a pork shoulder you bought — or any meat for that matter. The ThermoPop Meat Thermometer provides an accurate temperature in seconds, has a 5,000-hour battery life, and comes in one of nine colors.
Herschel Chapter Travel Kit
A good Dopp kit is something every man should have, and occasionally replace. The Chapter Travel Kit from hip company Herschel, has a waterproof main compartment and an internal mesh storage sleeve. It also comes in 35 different designs.
This stubby handled razor ⏤ which will have you rethinking the ergonomics of shaving ⏤ comes with a standup rubber base to help the blades dry in between uses and a rubber cap for easy travel. It’s sold in black or white and with three blades.
Timex Easy Reader
The white-faced, leather-strapped Timex Easy Reader is a contemporary spin on a ‘60s classic. The holiday gift’s also water resistant in case you forget to take it off for bath time.
High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic
Glenn Frankel’s behind-the-scenes story explores the making of one of the most iconic Westerns, including screenwriter Carl Foreman’s dealings with the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the film’s production and his eventual blacklisting from Hollywood. It’s a hell of a read.
SoundMAGIC E10 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones
You can break the bank on earbuds, or you can get these highly rated ones that are budget-friendly and offer great sound quality. The choice is yours.
PinBox 3000 Cardboard Tabletop Pinball Game
This cardboard-framed, rubber band-powered pinball tabletop game requires no tools to assemble and has die-cut extra parts that let you customize its design and game features.
That standard Philips head sure can screw. But fitting into tight spaces is not its forte. This ten-bit Pro Kit is flexible as a Cirque de Solei performer to make tightening in hard-to-reach areas decidedly less frustrating.
Stanley Mountain Vacuum Food System
Perfect for commuters and campers alike, this vacuum-insulated food container will keep hot soups warm for up to 13 hours, and cold beverages cool for up to 11 hours. Comes with a pot, jar, lid, spork and that classic Stanley look.
Digraphs First Edition
Digraphs introduces eight new tiles with two letters instead of one to Scrabble, jacking up not only the game’s literacy but also the high scores and game night arguments. It’s a great holiday gift.
Steven Raichlen Project Smoke BBQ Spice Rub 6 Pack
Coax some next level flavor out of that rack of baby backs or juicy pork chop by applying grill-meister Steven Raichlen’s kosher and gluten-free Project Smoke rubs. They come in a handful of flavors including Kansas City Smoke, Carolina Pit Powder, and Santa Fe Coffee.
For the dude who enjoys a diversity of beers, each twelve-pack shipment from this club of the month features four different styles of suds from at least two breweries not located in nearby states.
Swiss Army Classic
The classic edition of the handiest pocketknife on the planet rocks a compact blade, scissors, tweezers, and a nail file with a flat screwdriver tip. It’s also now sold in rustic Woodworm if red’s not your color.
Metal Quip Toothbrush Starter Set
Heralded as the iPhone of toothbrushes for its chic design, this vibrating cavity deterrent buzzes every 30 seconds to let you know it’s time to brush a different quadrant of the mouth. It’s also sold as part of a subscription plan where, for $5 per refill with free shipping, they’ll send new brush heads and toothpaste every three months.
DadWare Bondaroo Infant-Bonding Shirt
For the soon-to-be dad, the Bondaroo is a soft, short-sleeve tee (made of bamboo, spandex, and cotton) with a patent-pending flap across the front to make skin-to-skin bonding time a snap ⏤ or actually, a Velcro, since that’s what keeps it closed. It comes in one of four colors and is handsome enough closed to still wear to the store, assuming you don’t mind people asking why you need easy access to your pecs.
This 100 percent cotton tee from Canada’s hippest politician, the 6DAD, tells the world who you are ⏤ and in the lost art of cursive, no less. They also sell a block-lettered Feliz Navidad shirt if you’d like something a little more festive.
A couple of deft 360-degree spins is all it takes to catch enough air to fill up this rip-stop nylon recliner. After that, the only thing you’ll be catching is Zzzs as you’re splayed out on the breathable mesh seat.
Monopoly: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition
Become a real estate baron in the Seven Kingdoms with this GOT-themed edition of Monopoly. In lieu of the railroads, you get the houses of Lannister, Baratheon, Targaryen, and Stark. Replacing Boardwalk and Park Place as the toniest real estate on the board are Kings Landing and Braavos.
Make-Your-Own Neon Effect Sign Kit
In this box is a bendable illuminated neon wire that can be twisted into a word or design. It lights up three ways ⏤ static, slow flash, or fast flash ⏤ and gets your message across loud and clear.
Dripo 2-in-1 Travel Iced-Drip Coffee Maker & Tumbler
This portable, drip coffee maker not only cold brews java on the go in less than two hours, but you can drink right out of it when it’s ready.
Carry-on Cocktail Kit
For the frequent flier who needs to frequently take the edge off, these carry-on cocktail kits take an ordinary in-flight beverage to the next level. They come with high-end ingredients for all the classics: Moscow Mule, Gin & Tonic, Bloody Mary, and Hot Toddy.
Estwing Sportsman’s Hatchet
Channel your inner trapper with this leather-gripped ax from Estwing, which stands 13-inches tall and is made from a single piece of solid steel.
Attached to your keys, bag, or, stowed-away-luggage, this Bluetooth tracker sends updates to your phone so you can always have piece of mind.
Wahl 4-in-1 Multi-Groom Rechargeable Trimmer
The lithium-ion battery in Wahl’s 4-in-1 Trimmer recharges in less time than it takes to wax your handlebar mustache. Almost. It also comes with four self-sharpening blades and 12 cutting lengths.
It’s harder to forget your charger when the car keys are attached to it. That’s the premise behind the Nomad Key, a flexible, scratch-resistant charger (available in lightning or micro-USB) the size of a safe-key.
Canvas Pop Photo Pillows
Photos in a frame? Pssh. Photos printed on a comfy pillow? Way better. Upload a picture or five to Canvas Pop and you can put it on a comfortable throw pillow.
North Face ETip Glove
These gloves keep your hands warm while also letting you peck out messages on your smartphone. They’re made from a built-in stretch material and work with every touchscreen interface be it a tablet, smartphone, or watch.
Wes Anderson Card Game
This illustrated 25-card stats-based game pits your favorite Wes Anderson characters ⏤ from M. Gustave and Margot Tenenbaum to Eli Cash and Steve Zissou ⏤ against each other to “discover who rules our hearts and mind.”
Star Wars Ice Molds
The Force is strong in your Highball. Let Darth Vader do thy bidding with these BPA free silicone, flexible Star Wars ice trays of the Sith Lord’s dome. Because, why not?