A Gift Guide for Pragmatists

Your giftee will thank you (if only in their head) every time they use their toothpaste key.

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One of the virtues of practical gift-giving is affording someone a simple product or service that they might never think to buy themselves otherwise. In this way, you can upgrade your in-laws’ kitchen or set up a college student with a long-lasting gadget. They’ll thank you (if only in their head) every day they use it. Here are our favorite practical gifts, from the latest innovations to the better and smarter versions of stuff we all already use.

Dryer balls

A box of Wool Dryer Balls, by Woolzies
© 2019 Woolzies.com


Wool dryer balls can reduce the time your clothes take to dry and make your laundry softer. Woolzies dryer balls are natural and eco-friendly, and you can add drops of your favorite essential oils to them for fresher-smelling clothes. $24

Food thermos

A Stanley food thermos, with its lid lying next to it.
© 2019 STANLEY, All Rights Reserved.

A food thermos is a smart choice for keeping on-the-go food cold or hot. They’re easily packable and cast allure on hiking and picnicking. For kids, the Thermos Funtainer is highly rated and comes in fun themes. The Stanley Vacuum Food Jar is a heavy-duty container that keeps its temperature for around eight hours. $16/$20

Tube Key

A photo of a tube key.
© 2019 Miriam Joy. All Rights Reserved.

Have you ever laid eyes on such a practical trinket? A tube key slips over a tube of toothpaste or ointment so you can easily roll it up and use every bit of the product. $2.49

Hand vacuum

A SharkNinja hand vacuum sucking up dirt from a coffee table.
© 2019 SharkNinja Operating LLC

The perfect gift for a new home- or car-owner who likes to keep things tidy. The Shark Wandvac is a sleek, top-rated model that works well for tight spaces, dust, and pet hair. $90


Toilet bidet
© 2019 LUXE Bidet. All rights reserved.

Americans are warming up to the use of bidets, a common device in much of the world. Simple, attachable models like this one from Luxe get rave reviews from people who say they feel cleaner than ever and will never go back. $35

AAA membership

Sample AAA card
© 2019 AAA

It might not be as flashy as a basket of charcuterie, but a AAA membership will prove a worthy present the minute car trouble starts. In addition to towing and roadside assistance, AAA members receive all kinds of shopping and travel discounts, and the benefits follow the driver no matter whose car they’re in. $40-165


Earlywood spatula being used to flip eggs in a stovetop pan.
© 2019 Earlywood

There is often a tragic disconnect between the kitchen utensils we think we will use and the ones that actually come in handy. Earlywood’s Tera Scraper is a well-made wooden spatula with one hundred uses. The straight edges of this scraper make it ideal for simplifying cooking and cleanup. $14

Cast iron skillet

A cast iron skillet with a fried turkey in it.
© 2019 Lodge

Introduce a budding chef to the joy of cast iron cooking. These babies will last forever, and you can use them every day. Lodge makes a nice classic skillet that will stand the test of time. $5-60

Weekender bag

Woman carrying a messenger bag
© 2019 Paravel

A weekender bag can be just the right size for short trips or big days at work, and their utility doubles for parents. The L.L. Bean Canvas Duffle is nicely crafted, and Paravel’s Fold-up Bag is made from recycled water bottles. $159/$65

Water bottle

A photo of the Yeti cooler

Buy your special someone the water bottle of their dreams, and they won’t have to feel guilty about splurging for such a simple item. Hydro Flask and Yeti both make stainless steel bottles that will keep liquids cold for everyday use or outdoor adventures. For the extra adventurous, try a bottle with a built-in filter. $40/$45/$28

Beeswax food wrap

Photo of beeswax food wrapping paper with berries and donuts resting inside of them.
Photos by Emily Blistein and Jessica Anderson, © Bee’s Wrap 2017 – 2019

Using reusable food wraps will cut down (or eliminate) your use of plastic wrap, and they’re so easy to maintain. Bee’s Wrap sells these smart cotton-and-wax food wraps, but — if you’re crafty — you can make your own. $18

Cold brew/tea maker

A cold brew and tea maker.
© 2019, Ovalware

Cold-brew coffee is so hot right now, but it isn’t cheap. Making it at home can save a bundle. Gift your caffeine-loving friend the perfect pitcher for making cold brew in their own fridge. It also works great for making iced tea from loose leaves. $30

Clothing steamer

Photo of the ConAir Clothing Steamer
© 2019 Conair Corporation

For anyone who dreads breaking out the ironing board, a clothing steamer can be a game-changer. Conair’s Turbo Extremesteam is a highly rated choice that will work with delicate garments, linens, curtains, and suits. $82


Featured image: Thermos, The Saturday Evening Post, 1957

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  1. I’ll take the tube key and the hand vacuum, but not before a framed copy of that beautiful ’57 Thermos art ad. A perfect example of the American ’50s successful, relentless pursuit of perfection!

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