Favourite Things: A Pseudo-Gift Guide for Husbands, Fathers, Brothers and More

I think buying gifts for the special men in our lives – the brothers and husbands and fathers and teachers – gets a bad rap. Admittedly, it’s a bit tougher than throwing a scented candle and tea towel into a gift bag and calling it a day (though I did give my husband a maple-scented candle with a wooden wick last Christmas and it was one of his favourite gifts!), but I think the ideas below strike the right balance of fun and practical.

These are favourites, but not all necessarily small enough to fit in a stocking (or economical for years with a smaller budget). I tend to buy one or two large items each Christmas, and the rest is pretty small stocking-stuffer variety. We have and enjoy all the items below, but they’ve been accumulated over a number of years. Sometimes when I see gift guides I get the sense people have purchased ALL the items in a single year. That is definitely not the case in our household!

  1. A SLEEK LAPTOP BOOKBAG | My husband (pre-COVID) had to travel a lot for work. In addition to carting around his luggage – he only travels with carry-ons – he has lots of tech accessories to bring along, plus passports and other travel documents to access. I ended up buying him the Solo Pro 15.6″ Backpack. It’s compact but has pockets in all the right places, and he’s loved it (the only thing missing is a luggage strap). I had actually ordered a few bags at various price points and this was the clear winner. *Update: he just returned from a work trip and one of the zippers on this beloved bookbag is starting to fail. It came with a good warranty, though, and a replacement is in the works.
  2. DARN TOUGH SOCKS | It’s funny, isn’t it – when you’re a kid, nice socks seem like the lamest gift you could find under the Christmas tree. But then, when you get older, there isn’t anything more satisfying than opening a great pair of socks. There are always socks under our tree. At least one set is whimsical – Star Wars themed more often than not, though I gifted a set of bacon-and-egg socks last month for a birthday. The running favourites are from Darn Tough. Made of merino wool, this Vermont-based company makes great socks with a replacement guarantee. We’ve actually worn through a number of pairs and they replace them everytime. I keep buying more because of their great exchange policy!
  3. SPECIALTY HOT SAUCE | So this gift would fall completely flat for me, but I know a lot of people really appreciate hot sauces and it can be fun to elevate things beyond store-brand sriracha. My husband happens to love hot sauces – the higher on the Scoville scale the better – but the flavour has to be great too. A nice hot sauce makes a great stocking stuffer. I recently bought a Dawson’s Hot Sauce with ghost peppers that has gotten rave reviews.
  4. A GOOD SHOVEL | This is obviously location-specific (ditto on the gloves below), but for anyone dealing with regular snow removal, having the right tools can go a long way. Last year we bought a Snow-Joe shovel from Home Depot and the whole family was always fighting over who got to use it when we had a blizzard. The shovel was light and the unique flexible second handle made clearing snow faster, more efficient and – dare I say – fun? This year I bought a second one for our family and wrapped one up for my father.
  5. APPLE DEVICES | A repeat from yesterday’s list, but these are runaway favourites in our house. Big investments, but if you source older models or second-hand items, they can still be affordable.
  6. CORD STORAGE | This is another great gift for the tech-saavy person in your life, especially if they travel frequently. I bought the Bagsmart Travel Cable Organizer and it has been superb.
  7. GOOGLE NEST | These are wonderful little speakers; we have some smart plugs and light bulbs that work via voice activation and with a Spotify account (see below) these are a great way to fill the house with music…or request a joke at 7 am.
  8. WATER COOLER | We go through a lot of water in our house, but no one is particularly keen on the chlorinated variety coming from the tap (we do cook and make coffee/tea with tap water, so consume lots of it every day to ensure we get the benefits of the flouride). As the kids got older, it was impossible to keep enough cold Brita-filtered water in the fridge. John had expressed interest in a water cooler for years but I always shot the idea down. For one thing, I hated the aesthetic of the bulky white varieties and, more practically, I didn’t want to be juggling full water jugs into an upside down position – it seemed destined to end in disaster eventually. Enter the Whirlpool bottom-loading version. It’s sleek. It has a self-cleaning function. And we use it every. single. day. We don’t use the hot water function (and have actually turned this off entirely), but I know people that love having easy access to hot water for steeping tea or making hot chocolate. We get our water (free!) from a local spring and have two water jugs that we rotate through the water cooler. I consider this one of my best Christmas gifts ever!
  9. FINGER GLOVES | Someone gifted John a pair of Columbia finger gloves years ago and they still get so much use. They’re supposed to be touchscreen compatible (they’re not), but they are wonderful for in-between weather. They’re thicker/warmer than regular “Magic” gloves, look a lot nicer, and are warm enough to wear throughout the fall and on warmer winter days.
  10. ERGODRIVEN TOPO MAT | This is a niche product but since we have a standing desk in our office, it’s regularly in use. This is basically an anti-fatigue mat on steroids. It has unique contours that are really helpful for shifting and supporting your feet when standing for extended periods.
  11. SPOTIFY | A few years ago a friend of mine got a 6-month Spotify membership as part of a Christmas gift exchange and I thought that was such a great idea! I use our account daily, and it really does beat sourcing music on YouTube. You can download playlists to access them offline (on a roadrip, when you’re out for a jog) and basically every song you can think of is available with just a click of a button. Now excuse me while I go put on some Christmas tunes…
  12. LEGO | We are huge LEGO lovers in this household and there are no age restrictions. Each year I buy a Star Wars LEGO set for John (and the kids). It’s a favourite Boxing Day tradition to work on building this together before setting it up with the rest of the collection in our home office.
LEGO unboxing reaction Christmas 2020

BONUS FAVOURITEs

  • FUN SHIRTs | I try to source a graphic T-shirt each year; usually it involves a Star Wars theme. Our favourite so far was a The Darth Face shirt.
  • HIGH-QUALITY FOOTWEAR | We’ve jumped on the Blundstone bandwagon – pricy but a great neutral shoe that comes in styles that can easily be dressed up (work, church) and down (running errands or walking around the neighbourhood).
  • BOOKS | For a few years I bought John a biography every Christmas. Books are like socks – kind of boring when you’re a kid, but some of the best gifts as an adult. I always buy my Dad a book (often second-hand).
  • BBQ GEAR | Like the hot sauce, a specialty BBQ sauce or specific tool (a nice BBQ lighter or special tongs) can make a great gift.
  • FOOD | Beef jerky, a special cereal, candied pecans. One of our friend makes homemade butter tarts as Christmas gifts and they’re delicious! I always give special treats at Christmas.
  • GIFT CARDS | This is my go-to gift for teachers; I pick a local coffee shop, grab a certificate and consider things good-to-go. Cabella’s, Amazon, the Apple Store, restaurants, movie tickets. There’s a reason there are so many gift card options – they’re pretty swell.
  • A GOOD FLASHLIGHT | Because a good flashlight is just so darn practical to have around and I have gifted a number of them over the years.

Any go-to gifts I should add to my running list for Christmas 2022?

11 thoughts on “Favourite Things: A Pseudo-Gift Guide for Husbands, Fathers, Brothers and More”

  1. So I do not have to buy a single gift for a guy! My husband and I stopped exchanging gifts years ago, I think even before we were engaged. We viewed travel as our gift to each other. We don’t exchange birthday gifts either! Gifts fall dead last on both of our love language lists, though, and he never wants ANYTHING. My MIL still buys us Christmas gifts and it’s a struggle to come up with ideas for her. I always tell her all Phil wants is cash or gift cards. But that is not ‘fun’. He’s a super minimalist so very hard to shop for! I do get my dad a birthday gift, but usually I get him a book and he wants the kindle version. So my shopping is very easy! My siblings used to do a gift exchange but probably stopped around 8 years ago because everyone was getting gift cards so we were basically exchanging money…

    But I know we are the outliers when it comes to gift giving! For our wedding, I told Phil all I wanted was for him to get a physical. He is very healthy but hadn’t had a physical in years and didn’t feel it was necessary but I pushed him to get one before our wedding and now he gets one every 1-2 years as an anniversary gift. So romantic, right? 😉 But it’s important to me so I am glad he gets them.

    1. Ha! This is perfect! It just goes to show how different we all are in terms of gifting, love languages. The ideal is when people align on the gifting front and it sounds like you two do!

      I think I’m middle-of-the-road. I think we lean towards minimalism with gifts, but we all really do appreciate giving/receiving gifts (I for one would be VERY disappointed if I didn’t have any gifts from my husband under my tree and he’s darn good at coming up with ideas).

      We no longer exchange with family, unless we happen to be spending Christmas together. And even then, I wonder if we’d do it now? It has been years…

      At this point, aside from immediate family, there are only a few other people (mailman, crossing guard, teachers) that we give gifts to. Though I do consider my Christmas cards like a bit of a gift? Maybe that’s lame. But it does take a lot of time and effort and it’s how I maintain communication with A LOT of family and friends since I’m not on social media).

  2. Why is it soooooo hard to shop for men????? This is a great list. I am eyeing that mat — my husband stands most of the day and he could really use that. (Not sure if he’d love taking it to work with him… I am picturing him rolling it up yoga-mat style.

    1. Hmmm. You definitely can’t roll this one up. But it has been great for us as a stationary item. It comes in two sizes (we own the smaller size). Definitely recommend it…but it is big enough to be noticed for sure.

  3. I am having a tough time getting presents especially for the husband and my dad. You listed some good things and I think one or the other have already been seen under the tree.
    As for socks I feel they are not a gift. They are necessities and just doesn’t feel festive. The husband has some on his wish list for years and just lately he mentioned that no one gets him the socks. So maybe I get them even though I find it strange. Probably for St. Nicklas – which is a thing here in Germany.
    As for the books its the other way around my most treasured presents were books as kids but the older I got the less books I received. I have a whole wishlist of books but no one gets me any.
    The gloves are actually waiting in th cart to be purchased for my dad this year. I am early enough to score some Black Friday deals.
    Thanks for the list. I will come back to it when I start thinking about the husband.

    1. We all LOVE to get socks (even the kids, honestly). But I grew up getting practical gifts, and think it’s fun to give practical gifts with a bit of whimsy (e.g. bacon-and-eggs socks).
      I’m so sorry you don’t get books on your book list. It has only been in the last few years I’ve started asking for books for Christmas, as I tend to not like to own books because of the clutter (and just get them out of the library). But there are some specific ones – like the Harry Potter series and this year I’ve asked for one of the James Herriot books as I want to start collecting those – that I just really, really want to have on my shelf.

  4. It’s so hard to shop for guys, isn’t it? I love that you compiled this list of fun and useful things!
    Books are always a good idea (IMHO), but my husband is taking a reading hiatus of some sort, so it’s not a good option this year. LOL (for me on the other hand, books are ALWAYS a good idea, although I am getting most of my books from the library these days…)

    Maybe I ask how you make your collages?

    1. I get most of my books from the library too! But I’ve taken to requesting special ones that I’ve especially loved for Christmas.
      I just made these collages in Canva (I didn’t use their app, just their website). I’ve also made some child birthday invitations with Canva too that have been great! I only use the free version…

  5. Yep- my son will be 19 this Christmas and he still gets Legos. When he was little we would do them together- I would be the piece finder and he did the actual building. We still do that for old times sake.
    I’m also thinking of getting those gloves for my son. Growing up in Florida he never needed gloves- but now that he’s in Texas he’s having some chilly weather. It will be his first “cold” winter.

    1. Ugh. Cold winters. I’m definitely feeling jealous of your Florida temperatures…but I DO love our summers and falls (generally).

      I like to be the piece finder, too. In general, I like having instructions to follow. I have zero creativity in coming up with designs on my own (while the kids + my husband are incredibly creative). I like to make swimming pools and other creations that involve nothing more than building boxes.

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