Gift guides are taking over again — gift ideas for him, gift ideas for her, and suggestions for every ultra-specific person in between seem to be everywhere you look. But one thing that’s often left until the last minute? The beloved stocking stuffer.
Whether you’re gifting on a budget, have a spending limit within your gifting circle, or need a tiny-but-expensive gift to add as a surprise, small stocking stuffers are a necessity.
But let’s be clear: Just because stocking stuffers need to be small in size doesn’t mean they should be dinky and worthless. Fake poop or an emergency clown nose are technically cheap and technically fit in a stocking, but we doubt anyone was dying to open those. Sure, it’s funny for a minute and you’ll be the class clown for the day, but you know it’ll end up in their junk drawer. Your friends and family will appreciate a Bluetooth tracker or wine stain remover way more.
We’ve asked around and done some research to pull together 50 of the best *useful* stocking stuffers out there. Some will be limited by price, some will be pricey but small enough to fit in a stocking, and some will be a mixture of both — while all will be sure to please.
The Apple AirPods
Is there anything more beautiful than the gift of street cred? Apple’s AirPods offer stellar sound for how small and inconspicuous they are, plus seamless pairing for anyone with an iPhone 7 or later. Your gift recipient will just have to make sure they don’t lose one, since there’s no “Find my AirPods” app — yet.
A set of Bluetooth trackers
There’s nothing like losing something you had in your hand 30 seconds ago to make you feel like the world’s biggest dipshit. Ideal for that one person who loses everything, Tile Mate Bluetooth trackers help to keep tabs on phones, wallets, keys, and more. The app tracks where an item was last seen and can make a phone ring even if it’s on silent. The new-and-improved Tiles also have replaceable batteries to make things even easier.
Remember when you were a kid, that moment you realized you got *the* coolest new toy except your mom or dad forgot to buy batteries, so you couldn’t even play with it? That was the worst. Now that you are the mom or dad, make sure you always have extra batteries on hand. Better yet, drop this multi-pack of AA batteries by Duracell into everyone’s stockings and be the holiday hero.
A 3-in-1 avocado slicer
Asking for guacamole and having to pay extra at every restaurant just isn’t fair. Make an avocado lover’s dreams come true with this handy 3-in-1 tool. They’ll be able to slice, pit, scoop, and whip up avocado toast like the best Instagram food bloggers out there, and then throw it in the dishwasher after the prep is done. It’s normal to carry around spare guac, right?
A stylish lint roller
Having pet hair (or people hair) on your clothes isn’t exactly stylish — but these reusable lint rollers are. Available in a ton of colors and patterns (including classy marble), Flint rollers offers a less grandma-ish alternative to traditional tape lint rollers thanks to a collapsible body and refillable cartridges.
Red wine stain remover
White wine drinkers are pretty much in the clear, but red wine drinkers are really risking it when it comes to white shirts, furniture, or carpets. Instead of having to deal with Stanley Steamer or a machine that doesn’t work, this well-reviewed bottle of Wine Away can remove new and dried wine stains as well as coffee, ink, blood, juice, and more. It’s especially great for people with messy kids — or in-laws.
A Darth Vader self-stirring mug
Best for the Jedi masters and Sith lords in your life, a self-stirring mug with Darth Vader on it is an obvious choice. At the press of a button, they can activate “The Force” and watch their latte, tea, or blue milk swirl into the black hole. The mug comes with a lid to keep contents from splashing (as it does seem to stir at lightspeed.
A silk pillowcase
For anyone who’s more protective of their hair than they are of their family members, a silk pillowcase will be a perfect addition to their routine. The natural fibers in real silk allows hair and skin to slide freely and avoid static electricity and dust mites, leading to the prevention of knotted hair and bed head as well as facial wrinkles. Choose from eight colors to match their room’s decor.
A portable charger
Do we even need to explain this one? Dead batteries in any device — whether it’s a phone, camera, tablet, or something else — is a universal annoyance, and can even get a little scary if you’re depending on the device to find a person or a place. Anker’s infamous portable chargers are said to be able to charge an iPhone almost twice, and their small lipstick size allows them to fit almost anywhere.
A motion-sensing toilet light
Not to be dramatic or anything, but having to get up and pee in the middle of the night without blinding yourself from overhead lights is the worst. The IllumiBowl 2.0 is a genius light that clips onto the toilet and lights up a soft, radiant glow (with five brightness levels to choose from) when it senses motion. It even changes colors, so they’ll be avoiding stubbing their toe in style.
A deodorant-removing sponge
There’s not a person in the world who hasn’t had this problem at least once or twice (unless they’re just not wearing deodorant, which is a whole other problem in itself). Keep your friend from showing up to work in a classy black shirt with embarrassing white deodorant stains across it with this deodorant removing sponge. When the stain is so stubborn that the dryer sheet trick won’t work, this sponge will be a life saver.
The Echo Dot
A smart home isn’t complete without an Echo — and the newest Dot makes it easier than ever to add the convenience of Alexa to any room. The third generation Dot is the cutest yet, complete with better sound and microphones than earlier ones. They can control smart devices like lights or blinds, become a household intercom, order pizza or an Uber, and more. You’re basically gifting an easier (lazier) life, and who wouldn’t want that?
Air plant magnets
Why gift regular magnets when you could gift magnets that double as decor? These pineapple pot air plant magnets are an adorable addition to the plant-loving hipster’s kitchen, and will work to do a bit of air filtering as well. They’re big enough to act as that one heavy duty magnet that every fridge needs for the heavy stuff, but can also be hung on walls to give any room a tropical pop.
A wine vacuum saver
First things first: It’s not likely for a wine lover to leave much left over in the bottle once it’s opened. But on the rare occasion that they’re saving some for next time, help them ensure they’re not wasting a single drop with a wine vacuum saver. The pump sucks air from the bottle and gives an air-tight seal to keep reds and whites fresh for an extra week.
A DIY glasses repair kit
Whether it’s actual glasses, sunglasses, or fake hipster glasses, it’s nearly impossible to avoid wonky hinges and missing screws at some point in life. No one wants to go to the store to get them fixed. Luckily this handy DIY kit is full of different-sized spacer nuts, a screwdriver keychain, and measurement instructions to make most repairs an at-home project.
A pocket blanket
Regardless of how “one with nature” your outdoorsy friend or family member is, they can admit that rain, soaked blankets, and obnoxiously big backpacks aren’t awesome. This water resistant blanket literally folds into a tiny square and can fit in your pocket, complete with ground stakes and a satin finish to guard against rocks, twigs, and other objects underneath. It’s a must-pack for all camping trips or picnics where you only have so much room.
A clip-on selfie light
Everyone knows that natural light is the best light for selfies, but that’s clearly not always possible to get. This clip-on ring light gives off a white glow that’s much more flattering than a bathroom’s yellow light, and can also be helpful for shooting videos in the dark. It’s basically like having a professional follow you around.
A portable essential oil diffuser
Self care is a huge thing right now, and everyone deserves to be in on the action. A portable essential oil diffuser could truly be someone’s ticket to a headache-free day, offering soothing scents to release anxiety, stress, and more. It can be kept on their desk, cramped nightstand, or even in the car. Its color changing bulb could also double as a night light for kids.
A bath bomb
The combo of stress and so-cold-it-hurts weather is almost unbearable. As you’ve probably seen all over social media, one solution (that also happens to be extremely Instagrammable) is a bath bomb. The fizzing balls of soap offer relaxing, anxiety reducing fruity or floral scents. These ones from Da Bomb even have a fun surprise inside once they dissolve.
An odor rub-away bar
While we will forever be questioning why garlic and onions are the world’s most stubborn scents, this stainless steel “bar of soap” has been proven by reviewers to eliminate stench like magic. All you have to do is rub it as you would with a real bar of soap, with or without water. It’s also dishwasher safe.
Phone camera lenses
A real DSLR camera is sick and all, but isn’t always convenient to lug around on adventures. For your artsy Instagram photographer friend, these HD cellphone lenses add professional-looking effects to the average shot and can be stored in a pocket. Included are a super wide angle lens, a 10x macro lens, and a 180-degree fisheye lens, all sure to beef up the average camera.
A hydrating face mask
Anyone who’s into masks and skincare will know that Glam Glow is *the* brand to buy — and will be psyched that you even knew this was a thing. Glam Glow formulas are insanely helpful for hydrating, cleansing, and filling lines before makeup, regardless of age or skin type. Some of the masks are even glittery or shiny, making them look good before you even take them off.
A mini arcade game
All gift guides of the past few years only mention new games, new consoles, and new characters. The upgrades are exciting, but sometimes, throwing it back to childhood is just plain comforting. These handheld arcade games feature Pac-Man, Skee-Ball, Tetris, Asteroids, and more. And of course, they come complete with authentic ’80s sound effects and animation.
An electric toothbrush
Adulting gets in the way of so many little responsibilities — flossing and swapping your old toothbrush out are two big ones. For the person in your life with two many brain tabs open, the rechargeable Oral-B Pro 1000 will remind them it’s time to update (and could possibly save them a few nasty trips to the dentist). If anything, they’ll at least have nicer breath.
The Fitbit Charge 3
The workout enthusiast in your life is probably expecting socks, a water bottle, or cheap headphones in their stocking — so naturally, blowing their mind with a Fitbit is the way to go. The new Fitbit Charge 3 rocks an OLED touchscreen, looking much more sophisticated than others in its class. Its personal fitness score, improved heart rate monitor, tracking abilities, and seven-day battery will help to keep your active pal motivated.
A Funko Pop
How to get a geek to geek out: Funko Pops. These things are everywhere, taking the best characters from TV, movies, and video games and turning them into the cutest decorative figurines to deck out a desk. This one is Eleven from Stranger Things, but they have characters from every show or movie you can imagine: Disney, Harry Potter, Marvel, the NFL, and too many more to count.
A mini sriracha keychain
For people who are big into flavor, ordering at a restaurant only to receive bland food is the biggest bummer. This mini sriracha keychain is a totally necessary addition to any foodie’s keychain or bag, so you’ll never have to hear “it’s not spicy enough” again. The actual sriracha isn’t included, but you can easily grab that from the grocery store.
No matter what, some people will always refuse to do number two in public — or when anyone is home, for that matter. A 2-ounce bottle of Poo-purri is small enough to carry in a bag, keep in the car, or store subtly in the bathroom. All they have to do is give the bowl a pre-business spritz and Poo-purri’s essential oils and natural masking compounds will stop the odors (and the anxiety) before they even start.
A Fire TV Stick 4K
A must-have for any avid TV watcher, the upgraded Fire TV Stick is ready to make life 100 times easier. Released in 2018, the upgraded Fire Stick now features 4K streaming, a built-in Wi-Fi antenna, and immersive Dolby Atmos sound for a movie theater experience (without people talking over the movie). With the help of an improved Alexa experience, they can search 500,000 titles and browse Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and more.
Dunder Mifflin t-shirt
Fans of The Office (so, basically everyone), will undoubtedly appreciate a Dunder Mifflin shirt to support the people person’s paper people, which is available in an assortment of colors and perfect for casual Fridays at work. You could also add on a “World’s Best Boss” mug for extra laughs — if they don’t have one already. It even comes with a free Dunder Mifflin sticker for their laptop or car.
Cards Against Humanity pack
Hold onto your Furbies — Cards Against Humanity is throwing it back to the days when Nirvana lyrics weren’t considered vintage. If you’re gifting to someone who sorely misses the good ol’ days, the ’90s Nostalgia pack puts a retro twist on the NSFW game. The deck has 23 white cards and seven black cards, so it can be played alone or as an expansion to the original.
All-purpose moldable glue
They say the only thing you can count on is death and taxes but we’ll add another to the list: random stuff breaks all the time with no real, practical way to fix it. Sugru moldable glue sets by turning into silicon rubber, is waterproof and cold and heat resistant, and is one of the internet’s best hidden secrets. Use it with DIY projects to fix, bond, seal, and mount stuff — Sugru even comes in multiple colors to make the fix blend in.
Herbal tee for sleep
When you can’t seem to catch some Zzzs, everything is off. Since you can’t fit a new mattress into their stocking, this well-reviewed herbal tangerine tea offers a natural sleep remedy for the person you know who can’t even stay awake with an IV of coffee. Tea also offers more relaxing “me time” than just downing a melatonin pill, which everyone could use.
Rick and Morty socks
Socks as a gift have gotten a bad rep. The one time it’s cool to receive socks is when they’re Rick and Morty themed, especially so if your friend is the type to get schwify and roll up their pants specifically to show off their socks. It’s also a nice way to tide them over until the new season.
A mini camera drone
Drones were a 2017 hot item and are back again this year. We would have said “toy,” but let’s be real — adults have just as much fun with these things. The well-reviewed DBPOWER X400W RC Quadcopter Drone with Wi-Fi is compatible with most VR headsets and offers 3D split-screen display and FPV real-time transmission. What the drone sees, they see — including aerial views, sweet sunset pictures, and more.
A heated ice cream scoop
Attempting to scoop straight-from-the-freezer ice cream makes for achy wrists. Give your frozen treat-loving friends a break with a heated ice cream scoop. Using biodegradable liquid to transfer heat from the handle, they’ll get perfect scoops every time without melting. It doesn’t use electricity, so it’s safe in the drawer and the dishwasher.
A brand new Switch game
We can guarantee that the veteran gamer you know has been waiting (not so) patiently for the new Super Smash Bros and all of its new fighting moves and characters. This bundle features a gray Switch, themed Joy-Con controllers, and a specially designed dock featuring fighters from the OG game. The actual game comes in the form of a download code that will be playable after Dec. 7.
Smart homes are taking over the world, and we are so okay with that. This TP-Link Smart Plug allows control of outlets via the Kasa app — AKA peace of mind and saving on energy bills. Whoever you gift to can keep bad guys away by turning lights on even when they’re not home, or turn bedroom lights off when they’re too cozy to get up. They don’t need an Echo or Google Home to use it, but it’s even easier if they do.
An automatic jar opener
A jar that will absolutely not open is one of life’s most underrated pains in the ass, especially when there’s no outside help. An automatic jar opener is one gift they won’t know how they lived without before. With the push of a button, this little ditty opens everything from large sauce jars to tiny seasoning jars, totally hands free.
Mini Lego sets
For any future engineers or kids at heart in your life, a badass mini Lego set will have their eyes lighting up immediately. A current fan favorite are the architecture sets, which, when finished, make a 15-inch detailed replica of world-famous skyscrapers in NYC, Chicago, Dubai, and more. Along with a booklet to infuse some history into the process, the brain juices are sure to get flowing for kids and adults alike.
A plain old phone charger
There’s literally no iPhone user who will turn down a new charger — these things get put through hell. Show them you totally get their Apple fandom and buy one backed by the tech giant. (Plus the cheap fake ones always break faster). This will be clutch if they were putting off getting a new one or if they need an extra to keep in the car or at work.
A mini Bluetooth speaker
For music obsessives, going even a few hours without their current favorite album is basically a layer of hell. They’ll love you forever if you gift them a portable Bluetooth speaker from Bose: This waterproof one works exceptionally well outdoors for camping or beach trips, cutting through external noise to give impressively booming bass for such a little speaker. With a 6-hour battery, 30-foot range, and Google Assistant, they won’t have to go anywhere without music.
Apple just upped its smartwatch game in a huge way.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is the biggest and most consequential update to date. By adding LTE connectivity, Apple has delivered an upgrade that will completely change how you use the device.
Earlier iterations of the Apple Watch, and frankly, most other smartwatches, have been hamstrung by their dependency on your phone for data. By completely untethering the watch from your iPhone, it’s not a completely different story.
Prior to today’s unveiling there was some speculation as to whether Apple would significantly change up the design with Series 3. Not only did Apple not change the form factor of its watch, they managed to keep the case size nearly identical even with the additional LTE radio and SIM.
The only difference is that the case is now slightly thicker. The company says it’s the equivalent of about two sheets of paper — but it’s not noticeable that I could see.
The most noticeable difference is the red dot on the Digital Crown, which doesn’t actually do anything other than let people know you’re wearing the latest Apple Watch, which is, of course, the point.
Speaking of colors, the Series 3 also comes in a few new finishes: a new shade of pinkish gold and a gray ceramic. Both are nice, if somewhat predictable, additions.
Naturally, there are a load of new band styles and colors to go with the new watches. The woven nylon bands now come in new patterns, and there’s a new sport band made of soft nylon that promises that is much more adjustable than the existing sport band.
New bands and colors aren’t why you’re going to want to upgrade your Apple Watch, though. You’re going to upgrade because LTE connectivity completely changes what you can do with it.
Yes, you can send text messages and make phone calls from your wrist even when your iPhone is at home. But it also means you can ask Siri to call you an Uber or a Lyft, stream music, and use any other Apple Watch-enabled app.
All this comes with one important caveat, though: You’ll have to fork over extra money to your carrier each month for your watch. And even though carriers tend to charge significantly less for smartwatch data, handing even a little more money over to telecom companies just plain sucks.
If you can get past that, though, there are other reasons to upgrade.
The latest version of watchOS also comes with new fitness tracking features, like the ability to track high intensity interval training. There’s also a built-in altimeter, which allows the watch and watch apps to better track your elevations — a huge update for skiers and snowboarders.
There are also a load of upgrades to the heart rate monitor. Now, the watch’s heart rate monitor can track your heart rate over time and, when paired with the Health app on the iPhone, surface all your past heart rate data.
As Apple pointed out during its keynote, this has big implications for how people monitor their health, since they can better track changes in their heart rate over time.
The explosion of companies selling mattresses and other big-ticket items online is based on a clear gamble: You’re not going to want to have to return that giant thing, even if it’s free to do so.
It’s a bet that these companies are winning, even when items are returned.
“Some of our biggest promoters are actually people who’ve already returned their mattress,” said Aaron Bata, head of customer experience at Phoenix mattress startup Tuft & Needle. “Those are some of the people we find who are recommending us to their friends and family more than those who keep the mattress because they’ve gone through the returns process and they know how easy it is.”
Tuft & Needle is just one of a bevy of startups that have emerged in the past couple years to sell mattresses online. Any person who has listened to a podcast has probably heard the pitch: Ditch that nightmare “mattress showroom experience” and get your next bed stuffed in a mind-bogglingly small box in the mail.
The scale-tipping selling point? A months-long no-cost and ostensibly hassle-free trial period meant to put to rest any doubts you might have about sinking around $1,000 into something you’ve never even seen. If you don’t like it, the company takes it back and refunds all your money.
“‘Hey, try this mattress for four months.’ What a weird company!”
“Leesa gives you 100 nights to try your mattress for free. That is insane—that’s a third of a year” Comedy Bang Bang host Scott Aukerman says in one representative ad. “‘Hey, try this mattress for four months.’ What a weird company!”
That formula has allowed these bed-in-a-box startups to upend the traditional mattress industry, in which return and exchange fees of more than a hundred dollars were commonplace. Casper, Leesa, and at least half a dozen other companies are now operating with this model and it’s spread to similarly unwieldy items you might not otherwise think to buy online like sofas (Burrow and Joybird), bed frames (Pons), and flatpack furniture (Greycork).
But there’s a flip side to the promise at the heart of this new vision of home shopping: Returns are an expensive drag on bottom lines. There’s a reason that showrooms have always charged an exorbitant fee; they provide a buffer against hefty losses.
Returns are an inventory-wasting headache for any e-commerce business—they tend to be by far the biggest fulfillment cost on retail balance sheets—and especially intensive for those selling big-ticket items like sofas and beds that oftentimes can’t be resold, according to Forrester retail analyst Ananda Chakravarty
The new breed of online furniture retailers have to rely on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of customers won’t follow through with their return.
So far, they claim that’s working out.
“Returns are obviously a cost, but that’s something that has to be built in,” Bata said. “We think it’s going to be perfect for so many people—for the vast majority of people out there… But it’s not going to be perfect for everybody.”
But their marketing has to balance the confidence that people will like their product with reassurance that the refund will be easy and painless if they don’t.
“We don’t want to make people jump through a bunch of hoops,” he said. “It’s one of the most important parts of our relationship with our customers is being able to have that trust.”
Even so, perhaps an unspoken factor in the online furniture space’s success is that, however stellar the customer service, there will probably always be a few who see it as too much of a bother. In those cases, customers might opt to make do with a so-so product.
“People are reluctant to send back their mattresses because it’s a hassle.”
“Furniture probably has a lower return rate in general—people are reluctant to send back their mattresses because it’s a hassle,” Chakravarty said.
Of all the human characteristics to build a business around, laziness might be among the more consistent. Around three in five millennials admitted in a recent survey that they’ve kept items they disliked simply because they didn’t want to go through the trouble of returning them — around 18 percent more than shoppers over 30. That’s probably because nearly half of them say the returns they have made have been bad experiences, the report found.
“Retailers who want to remain competitive will find ways to reduce friction in the returns process, whether that’s communicating more updates, providing more transparency, or offering free return shipping,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail industry analyst who worked on the study.
Many retailers do just the opposite. Walmart-owned Jet.com tries to dissuade returns by offering customers a discount if they forfeit the right to send an item back upfront. Other stores discourage them with restocking, shipping, and processing fees.
Old-school mattress sellers are one of the worst offenders. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2004 that most local and regional retailers barred returns altogether, and national chains made them frustrating and arduous with missed appointments, long waits, and fees of up to nearly $250.
Casper changed that. The startup took advantage of the blatantly consumer-hostile practice by touting an unprecedentedly returns-friendly model that doesn’t cost customers a dime.
“They pioneered the 100-day trial/return free that others in the category have tried to adopt,” said Michael Duda, a managing partner at venture firm Bullish Inc. who’s invested in Casper.
A Casper spokesperson declined to reveal any specific returns data beyond a claim that its rate is in the “low single digits.” But the co-founders have discussed in previous interviews how they keep the cost down.
In the case of a return, Casper arranges for a local church or charity like the Salvation Army to come to the customer’s home and take the product for donation. The loss is actually cheaper than shipping the mattress across the country and washing it for resale, the company’s chief creative officer told Inc. last year. Casper also gets a tax write-off out of the deal.
For some customers, those steps played out seamlessly and conveniently.
“It was super easy and they were very helpful,” said Amy Luo of San Francisco. “They asked why I was returning it, but other than that, they didn’t pressure me to keep it or anything, which was really nice.”
But other mattress buyers found the company decidedly less enthusiastic. John Geletka of Chicago said it took him “a few attempts by their third-party donation service and some complaining on Twitter” before he was able to lock down an appointment.
“It’s an awkward and messy experience,” he said of the grunt work of getting the mattress in and out of his home. “I think a lot of people would deal with a Casper because it’s not terrible for sleeping on in the center.”
Another customer claimed on Yelp that Casper wouldn’t send a mattress topper for free after the deadline because a representative said that was “only used to dissuade folks from returning it.” (For the record, the offer mentioned isn’t Casper’s current official policy). Someone else called the process “a big hassle.”
Then there were a few people who seem to have more or less resigned themselves to the mattress.
“It is now an enormous, gigantic, expensive paperweight,” said one customer who missed the deadline.
“It is now an enormous, gigantic, expensive paperweight”
In Casper’s defense, the number of testimonies claiming customer service was helpful and easy outweighed complaints like that. A Casper employee also responded to many of the negative reviews.
Bata claims Tuft & Needle has a return rate of around 5 percent, and its three physical galleries where customers can try mattresses out before having them shipped to their door all boast average reviews of 4.5 stars or higher on Yelp.
He said some of the incentive to discourage returns in the name of lower overhead is at least partially offset by the word-of-mouth marketing the company can earn from people who tried the product and decided it just wasn’t a good personal fit.
Even so, at least a few Yelp reviewers of the company claimed their returns didn’t go as advertised and the company wasn’t forthcoming in trying to coordinate a pick-up. But there were indeed rave reviews from people who ended up sending theirs back.
“This review is about how Tuft and Needle is blazing a trail to retail utopia,” one particularly enthusiastic refund recipient wrote. “They have managed to take virtually all of the risk out of a very difficult and confusing and expensive purchase.”
That reviewer probably meant that risk if gone for consumers, but it’s businesses that have figured out a way to make sure people aren’t returning stuff—but getting it in their homes before they can think twice. And it’s turning out to be a lucrative strategy.