GIFT IT RIGHT
Finding fitting and reasonably priced gifts for the men on your list -- from a husband or boyfriend to fathers, sons, brothers, and friends -- is no simple matter. Here are 15 ideas, each costing no more than $25, that deserve a place under the tree or in a Christmas stocking. There are options for foodies, hikers, hipsters, beer lovers, gamers, techies, and more.
Rather than buying him more stuff, give the gift of an experience you can enjoy together. Wrap a map of national parks or a guide to local nature-rich spots in a pretty box and plan a hike at the location of his choosing. Sweeten the deal with a versatile piece of hiking gear. The Buff (starting at $20) is a multifunctional tube of moisture-wicking fabric that can be worn more than a dozen different ways. Users say it's indispensable for all types of outdoor activities.
Some beers may be too expensive or unusual for an ordinary evening but make excellent holiday gifts for the guy who eschews sports bar pours. The Grapefruit Sculpin by Ballast Point is an IPA that usually goes for $13 to $16 for a six-pack. Not Your Father's Root Beer from Small Town Brewery is a boozy (5.9 percent) root beer; a limited edition 22-ounce bottle has ABV of 10.7 percent. And Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, with 4.8 percent ABV, brightens the flavor with ginger and citrus.
Find a photo of the two of you or a special place you've visited together and turn it into a keepsake. A nicely framed photo may be tried-and-true, but the digital age opens up an array of options. Snapfish is a good source for inexpensive personalized gifts such as Christmas ornaments ($12), coffee and travel mugs (starting at $15), and playing cards ($20). Several websites and retailers have the technology to print on canvas or metal but charge higher prices for this service.
Google helped turn smartphones into virtual reality machines with a just a few pieces of cardboard. Now there are 14 different cases (starting at $15) that bear the Google Cardboard badge -- a perfect stocking stuffer for a techie. The Google Cardboard ecosystem is associated with numerous apps, videos, and games. A knockoff from I Am Cardboard sells at the same low price.
A full bottle of liquor may be too pricey, but mixers are a cheap alternative. Bring out your guy's inner mixologist with tea-based mixers from Owl's Brew ($7 to $16). Bitters are an important ingredient in many drinks, and a classic like Peychaud's ($12 on Amazon) belongs in a Sazerac, while Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters ($21 at Amazon) lend a touch of chocolate spice to a cocktail. For the drinker committed to quality no matter where he goes, The Bitter Truth makes a traveler's set of bitters (starting at $21).
Is a man in your life a world traveler, or does he aspire to become one? Help him remember past trips or offer motivation to start packing with a scratch map. For each place visited, he scratches off the country, lotto-ticket style. Depending on the scope of his wanderlust, give a world map ($18 on Amazon) or a version that focuses on the United States ($20). Reviewers who have given scratch maps away say they're tempted to buy one for themselves.
Some guys just can't keep track of their things, making a lost-item finder a welcome and practical stocking stuffer. This is a small Bluetooth tracking device that attaches to keys, luggage, a backpack, a wallet, or just about anything else. Inexpensive options include Tile ($25 on Amazon) and Honey ($24 on Amazon).
Here's an idea for the man with a discerning palate and a way with pots and pans: a grow-your-own-mushrooms kit from Back to the Roots ($20). The first harvest of gourmet, organic mushrooms should take less than two weeks after watering begins, although some buyers report that it can take longer. The kit yields more than a pound of pearl oyster mushrooms.
STAR WARS MUGS
Fans of the movie franchise will be thrilled to sprinkle more Star Wars memorabilia around the house. ThinkGeek sells four mugs for $12 each that magically change in some way when hot liquid is poured in. Quotes from the original movies suddenly appear next to images of Yoda or Darth Vader. On another, Kylo Ren's lightsaber emerges when the going gets hot.
High-end coffee shops charge $4 or $5 for a cup of the liquid black gold, but a 1-pound bag of beans at twice the price can yield about 40 (8-ounce) cups. Philz, Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Four Barrel, and Sightglass are well-known artisanal coffee brands that sell mail-order coffee for $10 to $18 a bag.
Putting together the perfect cheap gift for a dude with a mustache (or a hipster who won't accept anything too mainstream) is actually fairly easy. Assemble a mustache grooming kit that includes wax ($6 at Amazon), a mustache comb ($7 on Amazon), and a battery-operated Wahl mustache and beard trimmer ($12.50 at Walmart).
Spice things up, literally, with a bottle of hot sauce. There are hundreds to choose from, including four varieties of sriracha ($12 to $14) from Jojo's in New York City and A. Smith Bowman Distillery's barrel-aged bourbon hot sauce ($8 at HotSauce.com). Introduce him to a lesser-known Tabasco flavor such as garlic or sweet and spicy ($4), available at the producer's very own country store.
Ereaders and iPads may make the idea seem quaint, but unwrapping a new hardcover has a comforting feel about it. Top picks with guy appeal released this year include "The Girl on the Train" ($13.50 on Amazon), "Go Set a Watchman" ($16 on Amazon), "Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency" ($18 on Amazon), and "Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win" ($15 on Amazon).
Everyone sometimes needs a little extra energy in the morning, and music often does the trick. Save him from the struggle of precariously balancing his smartphone somewhere near the shower by presenting a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Several options attach to shower walls with a suction cup or hang on the shower curtain rod. Products from VicTsing ($17 on Amazon) and SoundBot ($16 on Amazon) are highly rated by scores of users.
Sending a present across state borders to a dad or brother who lives far away affords the chance to show off a signature local food item. There's Garrett Popcorn from Illinois, for example, cheese straws from Mississippi, and chocolate-covered potato chips from North Dakota. Check local grocery or gourmet stores for tasty and novel ideas.