Give Stocking Stuffers That Are Genuinely Useful

Photo illustration by Slate

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All gift-givers benefit from having a stash of small presents around––a token to round out a gift bag, a stocking stuffer, or a present for one of the nights of Hanukkah. At the same time, you don’t want to buy filler that will end up in a junk drawer or the trash. These little items, recommended from past Slate gift guides, are sure to be enjoyed and put to good use.


Everyone needs some necessities in surplus. Just as you can never have enough socks or underwear, a long-haired person can never have enough hair ties. Analytics engineer Laura Lai endorsed Hair Ties for Guys because “The reinforced stitching keeps the stretchy and durable material from snapping, and they don’t snag or dent your hair.”

In the same vein, if you have a runner in your life, they will most certainly be thrilled with a new pair of athletic socks. Staff writer Shannon Palus recommended these “thick, squishy” ones by Balega, writing, “I wear them when my feet need some extra motivation for getting out the door.”

Slate’s Dear Prudence, Danny Lavery, wrote how he prefers “Nice socks, with interesting patterns and attractive colors, with reinforced heels, that look good with whatever outfit you pair them,” noting that Fluevog makes “great, splurge-y socks that are sufficiently festive, but not so festive that people see you and think that all of your personality is hiding in your socks.”

These earbud pouches are universally useful: “Since I bought these cute square storage pouches for less than two bucks each … I wind my earbuds in a little circle, tuck them into the pouch, zip it up, and glory in all the time I’ve saved,” said Dan Kois.

Another gadget that can make life a little simpler is the Clipa2, which Future Tense editor Torie Bosch described as “a handsome little ring that you can use to hang your bag from any surface.” An obvious purchase for anyone you’ve witnessed struggling with their bag at restaurants.

The snappy dresser in your life will appreciate being able to rehabilitate their favorite clothing with this fabric shaver. “We use it on wool coats, under the arms of knits, and on the well-worn areas of denim that get a little fuzzy,” wrote Slate’s Heidi Grothaus. “Garments that were degraded to hunkering-at-home status are once again worthy of company all because of this $17 gadget.”

Everyone needs more hand cream in the winter, and a fancy tube is an indulgent treat. Cleo Levin sang the praises of this olive wood hand cream, noting, “I have never smelled an olive tree, and thus cannot judge its authenticity, but the incredible scent is both subtle and sophisticated. The blend of sweet almond, olive, and grape seed oil absorbs right into your hands leaving no trace of grease.”

Everyone can enjoy a few frivolous implements in their kitchen. Baking guru Dorie Greenspan told Violet Kim in our baking roundup that she loves this little sugar duster because it “makes her feel ‘like Tinkerbell … and it really does work well.’ ” Greenspan uses it to dress up any number of baked goods.

For the less whimsical and more practical baker, gift a tool that ensures exact measurement. “You’ve probably never considered bringing beakers into your kitchen, unless you’re a chemist. But you should! Measuring beakers allow you to be precise with liquids,” wrote Kim. “According to [baker Nik] Sharma … ‘liquid should be measured in a cup and not a teaspoon.’ … Sharma uses beakers to measure fats, like butter, that must be poured and melted, or for extracts, where even a minute difference can make a ‘huge difference in the final texture.’ ”

The cook in your life will love this garlic tool. Unlike a garlic press, which is messy and frustrating to use, Laura Miller recommended a “surprisingly simple” superior alternative: a garlic rocker. “I love it because it takes up next to no room in the drawer or dishwasher, and offers all of the convenience of a press without the fuss—nothing could be easier or faster to clean,” she wrote.

Those who enjoy getting creative might like these monoprinting plates. June Thomas wrote that, with this product, “you can create unique backgrounds and patterns very easily and with very little mess. Go at it for long enough, and you won’t have to worry about the existential horrors of staring at a blank sheet of paper, because nothing in your house that can be printed on will ever be blank again.”

If you have someone if your life who enjoys both writing and spending time in the outdoors, consider gifting a weatherproof notebook. “When I went on a weeklong kayaking trip, I took a set of Rite in the Rain waterproof notebooks with me to record my adventures,” wrote Sofie Werthan. “When I returned to shore, my books and other papers were soggy, but these journals held up wonderfully against the seawater and rain.”

You may want to add a nice fountain pen too—never underestimate how lovely it is to write with one. Thomas wrote of this pen, “The Platinum Preppy is one of the world’s greatest bargains: Made by one of Japan’s big-three pen companies, it is a spectacular writer.”