It’s not too late. You can still order a thoughtful, funny or wonderfully weird gift on a serious budget. In fact, order 15 of them. The trick is not to get distracted by statement items that are way too ambitious and so-called discounts on mediocre tech. Keep it simple, whimsical, maybe slightly retro and you’ll do just fine.
For more WIRED-approved gifts, joy-scroll through our main edit of Christmas gift ideas and our guide to the ultimate tech toys for 2020.
Paper Girls Deluxe Edition Volume 3; Image
Brian K Vaughan’s time-hopping romp concludes with this third volume, where we discover if the time-lost papergirls from 1988 – Erin, TJ, Tiffany and Mac – can find their way back from the stone age to finish their rounds, while, of course, also avoiding the crossfire between warring time-travellers from the far future where the girls are, apparently, considered a grave threat. Cliff Chiang’s artwork shines in this oversized deluxe edition, and fans of Stranger Things will find lots to love in this spiky, nostalgia-tinged look at friendship on the cusp of teendom. It was greenlit for a series by Amazon this year.
Price: £22 | Amazon | Hive | Waterstones
IKEA Bygglek LEGO storage
This is one of those times where you might conclude Ikea simply had a piece of furniture or storage solution for anything. In this case, it’s for storing all your prone to running off or being stood on Lego pieces. This Bygglek Lego Box with Lid comes in at 35x26x12cm making it a great size for storing a ton of bricks and, as an added bonus, it can even be used to build upon. If the idea of an empty box is leaving you feeling hollow, you can fill it with a Bygglek 201-piece brick set, that’s also offered by this Ikea and Lego team-up, as well as a set of three smaller Bygglek boxes.
Price: £15 | IKEA
Beauty Pie membership
Beauty Pie is one of those blink-on-Insta-and-you’ll-miss-it secrets that’s, well, not so secret anymore. Marcia Kilgore’s direct-to-consumer cosmetics brand is designed to ditch both the starlet ads and the department store counter mark-up on make-up, perfume, hair products and skincare. The gift memberships technically start at £30 for three months (which lets them buy up to £100 worth of cut price luxury products each month) but sign up from as little as £15 on the lowest, but still really quite generous, subscription tier. You’ll also want to introduce them to the concept of PIEDAYS, shopping days where the limit doesn’t apply.
Price: From £5 per month | Beauty Pie
Casio F-91WC watch
We’ve seen Casio watches ‘win’ tightly budgeted Secret Santa’s before, back when we could see reactions in person that is. In fact, the WIRED team got so carried away with the idea we’ve picked out five options, a Casio for all seasons. This punchy, yellow F-91WC (£17.50) caught our eye, as did the tasteful palette of this Unisex style (£17.40). A very blue Men’s F-108WH model (£15) is good for “semi-disposable fun” and we fell in love with this classic, beige eight-digit calculator watch (£22). You wouldn’t mess with someone wearing that, would you now? Finally you can’t go wrong with this amazing, all-black Casio Collection style, just pennies over budget for £26.50.
Price: £17.50 | Amazon
Sprout Pencils – Graphite + Colour Edition
‘It’s Christmas Thyme’ says Sprout’s online shop and we’re inclined to agree. We can vouch for the sketching (and colouring) skills of this eight-pack of plantable pencils. You’ll have to check back for updates throughout the year for how the seed capsules at the tip of each one are getting on. We got a healthy haul of sage, coriander, basil, chia, thyme, daisies, carnations and forget-me-nots. When you’re all doodled out, your recipient can plant the biodegradable graphite and wood pencils – the seeds are non GMO and the capsules themselves are made from a plant based cellulose.
Price: £12 | Amazon | Sprout
Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells
Coronavirus has really put our sense of smell front and centre, as it were, in 2020. So to celebrate the arrival of the smell-saving vaccines, we suggest food science writer (and influence on Heston Blumenthal) Harold McGee’s deep dive into the good, the bad and the ugly of things you can sniff. A neat olfactory-inclined cookbook alternative – everything from fruits to truffles are referenced – with years worth of worthy research into indoor and outdoor smells.
Price: £23.50 | Amazon | Hive | Waterstones | Bookshop
Electro Dough Story Kit
Tech Will Save Us does some of the best kids’ tech kits that go easy on the overpowering STEM lessons and all-in on the fun bit. (With yes, plenty of electronics and science and craft lessons mixed in there). What’s Electro Dough? It’s conductive dough that’ll teach kids aged four to seven the basics of how electricity works via simple circuitry. This Story Kit comes with LED lights and Story sheets to build 3D pop up scenes with a techy twist.
Price: £16 | Amazon | Tech Will Save Us | Hamleys
Stuck on a tech-inclined family member? Don’t embarrass everyone with some budget record player or compact camera, keep things simple with accessories for what they’ve already got. Like Nolli’s minimalist, design-friendly range of cases, wallets, plugs, bands – all in suitably millennial hues and at suitably millennial prices. This nifty Loop cable tidy is £20 and the extra 30% off everything for Christmas might put one of Nolli’s modular Couple Cases (for iPhone X and 11 series) in play.
Price: From £20 | Nolli
Batman Universe; DC Comics
Probably the best Batman story this year, Universe sees the caped crusader getting involved in what at first seems like a bungled robbery of a Fabergé egg by the Riddler, but quickly turns into a time- and space-travel caper that also features turns by a few super-chums, including Green Arrow and Green Lantern. It’s old-fashioned bat-fun, given an even more lighthearted spin by the cartoony art of Nick Derigton (the artist behind the animated psychedelia of A Scanner Darkly – so when the story does take a turn for the grim and gritty, it feels all the more intense.
Price: £13 | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery
Thermos Stainless King Flask
An absolute classic – Thermos is still churning out its famous flasks, perfect for our new winter schedule of chilly outdoor adventure after chilly outdoor adventure. This Stainless King Flask comes in at 1.2L, a hefty size for keeping a rejuvenating portion of soup at the ideal temperature or making sure you’ve got a long-running supply of warm tea ready to go. The Thermos will not just keep your hot drinks hot for 24 hours but it’ll keep your cold drinks cold too with a no-nonsense, durable design to protect against the elements.
Price: £25 | Amazon | Argos | John Lewis
While Anker has made its iPhone charger for some time now, the ace accessory maker jumped at the chance to recommend its latest Nano when the news dropped that Apple wouldn’t be including a charger with iPhone 12. Anker’s charger offers 20W and, being USB-C, is compatible with a range of devices beyond the iPhone. For iPhone users, the step up in charging speed from previous models will be instantly noticeable, moving up from the 5W charger that Apple previously provided. A slow burner of a gift.
Price: £17 | Amazon | Anker | Ebuyer
Stop hoarding toilet roll tubes and get your sweet peas off to a sturdy start with these rootrainers. Any seeds you’d normally grow in a seed tray will do well in these, but their additional height makes them particularly good for those that benefit from longer roots. The ridged channels encourage downwards growth rather than spiralling round and round, resulting in a healthy root network for a stronger plant. When you’re ready to pot on or plant out, you can simply hinge open the rootrainer cells to lift out each seedling without too much poking around – perfect for the most persnickety of specimens.
Price: From £10 | Sarah Raven
Themed Tile trackers
Tile’s jazzing up its trusted device trackers with a range of new designs, finally ditching its insistence on monochrome. There’s a wide range to choose from but with ‘Holiday Luxe’ a handy, low-brain-cell stocking stuffer. Your friends and family will be able to track their wallets, bags, keys and more. Elsewhere, there’s ‘Level Up’ for gamers, ‘Pet-a-palooza’ for pet lovers and plenty more kooky options – we like the ‘Oishii’ and ‘Slurp’ sushi and ramen designs. Because, why not?
Price: From £26 | Tile
Fisher Space Pen
Unlike some pesky pens, Fisher’s iconic Space Pen is made to be used how and whenever you need it – writing from any angle, at high temperatures and, even, on greasy surfaces. At 9cm, it’s easy to slip in an inside pocket or small bag and you won’t be needing to replace these too often either, as this Fisher should last three times longer than the average pen. You don’t need to break the bank to impress that friend who’s allergic to boring biros.
Price: £22 | Amazon | Fisher
If your pal is looking to grow some seeds with minimal fuss then a seed sprouter could be a handy option, especially for those lacking garden space. For just €20, you get three terracotta seed sprouters that are customised to all seed types. It’s as simple as placing your sprouter on top of an appropriately sized glass, placing your seeds in the sprout plate and tending to them as you would regularly. For novices, this sprouter set comes with instructions inside for helping you to get it right.
Price: €20 | Kikkerland
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