Picks

Practical Stocking Stuffers Are Underrated

These can save the day.

A red and white stocking with Swedish dish clothes in it.
Photo illustration by Slate

In search of the perfect gift? Read more of Slate’s holiday gift guides here.

We’re conditioned to think that gifts should be frivolous luxuries, when in fact, practical gifts can enhance life so much more, by making it easier. Here are Slate staffers’ favorite practical stocking stuffers—save your loved ones from the many daily challenges life throws our way with these little goodies.

It’s very basic, but there is truly nothing more useful than a long iPhone charger. (Or an extra-long charger for whatever phone brand, really.) The one that comes standard with the phone is just too short to do anything while it’s plugged in. It’s almost like Apple doesn’t care that I want to be able to watch TikToks for four hours in bed with my phone plugged in. A two-pack makes a great little stocking stuffer. You can even use them as ribbon to wrap a larger gift. —Madison Malone Kircher

If you want to help your family members transition away from plastic wrap, give them these adorably named silicone tools that “hug” the cut sides of produce. They create a good seal and keep leftover vegetables and fruits fresh in the refrigerator. —Christina Cauterucci

This Luxpro Headlamp has quickly become my favorite gadget. I know what you’re thinking … If I needed a headlamp, I could jury-rig one by tucking my phone into a sweatband. Well, you make a good point. But we both know you’d look snazzier wearing this headlamp. It has an adjustable nonslip headband, multiple light modes, and it pivots to shine light where you need it.

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It’s great for pre-sunrise hikes, night photography, camping, etc., but it’s also super useful for day-to-day life. This little lamp can help you sneak in your daily walk or run now that the sun is ducking out at 5 p.m. You can use it as a makeshift surgery light when trying to extract a splinter from your finger. Or when scrambling to lug the garbage to the curb in the dark. Do those you love (and honestly yourself) a favor by slipping this headlamp into some stockings this year. —Rosemary Belson

I’ve been devoted to this hand lotion for literally two decades. It’s the only lotion I’ve ever used that goes on thick—almost like an ointment—but quickly absorbs, leaving my hands incredibly soft but not greasy. For hours. I keep a tube in every bag I own, and I’ve recruited several new devotees by stuffing them in other people’s stockings. —Christina Cauterucci

Double-A batteries: I know this sounds incredibly lame—batteries? In my stockingReally, Mom?! But hear me out: Batteries are something you always need in a pinch, and buying them is a total pain in the booty. Who wants to go to the drugstore for anything, let alone something as basic as batteries? I never remember to buy them until it’s too late, and then I’m inconvenienced in more ways than one. If there’s anything perfectly small enough to throw into a stocking, ideally underneath some other, cuter tchotchkes, it’s a six-pack of batteries. Your TV remotes, game controllers, wall clocks, etc. will thank you. —Allegra Frank

This isn’t festive, but I’m always trying to push this wrist brace on people who, like me, spend a lot of time typing and never quite landed on an ergonomically correct home office setup. The holiday season is the perfect time to force someone to try it by making it a gift. It’s so light that I forget I have it on, but it somehow cures my self-diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome, miraculously absorbing my pain. —Jenée Desmond-Harris

My dad usually puts something crisis-related in our stockings—like a couple of emergency thermal blankets, or a pack of potassium iodide tablets. I don’t always use these items (thank goodness), but they make me feel loved and safe. This year I’m gunning for something all too practical: rapid COVID tests. The swabs, which process in 15 minutes, can be used for a little extra peace of mind before gathering for holiday dinner, or saved for the next time you have a cold. (Here’s more on how to use them and their limitations.) Consider the fact that they are hard to find in stock a plus—that you nabbed them will mean that much more. —Shannon Palus

People who prefer not to carry a bag everywhere should get a key organizer. I’ve lost too many beloved pants to pockets ravaged by keys (patching is an imperfect solution). With a key organizer like this one, those frayed days are a thing of the past. —Lowen Liu

Traveling during the holidays can be tough, and for me, it’s hard to share a bathroom when my sisters and I are trying to get ready at the same time. I’ve recently invested in this travel mirror, and it is SO worth it. You can prop it up on any surface (dresser, desk, bed), and then you no longer need to fight over mirror time. It also has different lighting features and is charged by a USB. —Elisa Cecere

One year, my mom gave each of my siblings and me a Swedish dish towel in our stockings. By the spring, we had ordered a full set for our house. Swedish dish towels are like superabsorbent, reusable paper towels that you don’t throw away. They’re perfect for wiping up the spray around the sink or a little dollop of water that you don’t want to waste a whole paper towel on. We keep them by the espresso maker, to wipe up the liquids and coffee grinds that linger. To clean them, you just stick them in the dishwasher. Plus, they come in all kinds of fun bright colors and patterns. Highly recommend. —Susan Matthews

I received this phone stand as a gift, and I use it every day. It’s adjustable and sturdy. In fact, it was such a hit, now all members of our family have one. —Erika Anderson

This was the year I started really trying to fix my problematic feet, and a friend indeed in that endeavor has been the humble massage ball. This is the one I use to roll out my forefeet when I’m standing, talking on the phone, taking a break from sitting at my desk. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer: small and cheap, with a big impact. —Rebecca Onion

This soil tester is perfect for the roommate/significant other/small child who can’t keep the house plants alive. The meter has three soil indicators: “dry,” “moist,” and “wet,” so there’s no room for error when you’re gauging water levels, and gardening stays as it should be—simple, joyous, and worry-free. —Zoe Giannotti