help me stuff it!
November 15, 2008 6:07 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite stocking stuffers?

I'm in charge of the Christmas stockings in my family (my tech-geek dad, my traveling mother, my 21-year-old musician brother, and my 16-year-old high school brother). Stockings usually contain the typical bath products (deodorant, razors, shampoo, etc), food/candy, something practical, a small game, and of course something silly. For an example of the something practical, this year my parents are getting Chef Soap, and last year everyone got one of these washer screwdrivers. I also took advantage of Archie McPhee to order some of these sweet stick-on mustaches.

What is Santa putting in your stocking this year? What are some great (small) gadgets, pocket games, and goofy gifts?
posted by kidsleepy to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
Those mustaches look pretty fun.

I knew we were considered adults in my parent's eyes when my mum put a few prepackaged shooters in our stockings. That doesn't really work for your youngest brother though, so maybe not such a good idea. We also usually do scratch tickets.
posted by melissa at 6:30 AM on November 15, 2008

I'm so happy to see other adults who do stockings! (My in-laws think it's weird.)

Be sure to check out the "dollar section" at Target. I also pick up a bunch of things at Trader Joe's/World Market/Whole Foods. Little gourmet chocolates, weird Japanese snacks, even tiny jars of mustard for my condiment-addicted dad.

Mini bottles of booze for the grown-ups.

Guitar strings or picks for the musician?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:46 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing we always adored in my family were the chocolate oranges. They have different flavors and types of chocolate, so you can customize a little. They always remind me of Christmas now.
posted by Gneisskate at 7:02 AM on November 15, 2008

There's always an orange (or rather a clementine) in the toe, and cute matched plushies poking out the top. One year it was wee little dragons, this year it’ll be mice. Playmobil makes individual figures in all types, so if you have a history geek they might enjoy a wee little Cleopatra or a tiny 17th century admiral.

Specialty candy, the sort that stores only import for Christmas, is a good bet. Also good are those compressed wash cloths for travelers, small sized sample bottles of expensive toiletries, toys from “Think Geek”, those tiny gift store planting kits (often the seed leaves are printed with messages), an inevitable Christmas mug, gloves (because it’s good to have spares), knit caps, ludicrous or practical, and so on.
posted by Phalene at 7:14 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

last year all the drivers in our family got tire-pressure gauges.
posted by dr. boludo at 7:15 AM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, the most useful gadget I've received in recent years was an LED keychain flashlight. (The price on that one seems way high to me, though -- I've bought them at Fry's for 3 bucks tops)
posted by dr. boludo at 7:19 AM on November 15, 2008

We always have backscratchers -- the 99 cent bamboo kind you get at World Market. I'm not sure how I ever lived without one. Some seem to evaporate throughout the year, so it's nice to restock at Christmastime and always have one within reach.
posted by katemonster at 7:20 AM on November 15, 2008

Mini Mag lights, book lights, bamboo back scratchers, beef jerky, giant pixie sticks, pocket measuring tape, kitchen scissors, those cool bendy lighter things for lighting fires or candles. My family loves stockings too! In fact, a couple of years ago we started the the tradition of drawing names, so that each person gets one "big gift" around $50, and then you spend $10 on every one else for stocking gifts. Stockings are the best.
posted by kimdog at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2008

I'm so happy to see other adults who do stockings! (My in-laws think it's weird.)

Aw heck no. We love our stockings, and our family is all adults right now!

In addition to your standards, which we have too, here are some of my picks:

My mom is a newspaper editor - for her I usually try to find some cute office supplies cool paper clips, pushpins, gel pens, post-its, tape with designs printed on, etc.

Jars or small containers of exotic spices for the cooking types (saffron, cloves, vanilla bean)

This year my brother is getting these Tragic Royalty playing cards

Scratch tickets, as noted above (my dad won $21 last year)

Candy from other countries and nostalgic candy - I go to one of those comprehensive all-candy stores and get Lion bars and various Cadbury products, little German chocolate ornaments, and old-skool candies

My dad is a techy/mechanical guy. Little tools, tiny Mag-Lites, magnet thingies, all kinds of tool-like doodads are popular. Restoration Hardware has been a happy hunting ground for this stuff in the past - they have small bins by the register full of handy things like that. Your locally owned hardware shop might also have excellent, fun, useful mechanical doodads.

As odious as I find chain craft stores like Jo-Ann, Michael's, and AC Moore, they also have really inexpensive but somewhat useful things that make great stocking stuffers. $1 note cards, memo pads, pencil cases, fridge magnets, etc. I think it's Michael's that has a perennial but ever-changing Hello Kitty display, which is awful to some people but perfect for certain members of my family.

Small puzzles are fun...last year I got one of the kind with a blank background and wrote a message on the back for my boyfriend. Kept him busy for a few minutes.

For those with long hair: barrettes, hair ties, chopsticks.

Costume jewelry.

Small frames with photos of the person you're giving it to already inside, or photos of something they like.

It can be fun to meander in ethnic stores to find unusual things like figurines, international food items, paper goods, and stuff.

I get cinnamon sticks for my dad, who likes to stir his coffee with them to flavor it.

I save 50-cent pieces and dollar coins whenever I run across them and put those in. Good luck and novelty.

Great question, thanks.
posted by Miko at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think these are a really fun little personalized item. I've had them made for my husband for our anniversary and also to commemorate an adoption date. I sent the guy three dollars for each one.
I got these one Christmas for a couple of people, and they went over well.
The smallest size Moleskin notebooks.
posted by jvilter at 7:22 AM on November 15, 2008 [5 favorites]

I really wish Andrew Daly was still selling his Mustache TV kits. Those would be a great complement to your fake mustaches. I heard him say recently that he is not taking orders, because he is too busy with real work. (Our own Young American was supposedly granted exclusive worldwide distribution rights - on live radio, no less! - but I don't know if he will follow through on that tempting offer.) You can get an idea from the website what it's all about, so at least you can share the idea.

Besides that, I love getting and giving the obvious: book/video/iTunes store gift cards, DVDs, CDs, etc. Also, think about SD Cards for cameras, Wiis, cell phones, etc. It's always good to have extras. Thumb drives are good gifts for some people, terrible for others. I use them all the time.

I also have a fondness for cheap watches. The incredible variety of watches for $10 and under is amazing, so if you know the recipient's taste in such things, that might be a fun gift. Also: grooming kits (nail clippers, etc.) are useful, as well as those little keychain LED flashlights.

See the website link in my profile for my address to mail these items to me.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:24 AM on November 15, 2008

For me, I always like to get something related to things people like. The kind of impulse items they have in stores that you ever buy because they're like, $5 and sort of useless, but they are so cute to get as gift - you know, like a little 1up mushroom filled with mints)

something small related to what people's hobbies (I already grabbed a pack of guitar picks for my husband's stocking)

silly bandagess (archie mcphee has a lot, but tons of websites have stuff like this) & of course stickers (not just for kids)

I also think card games are a great idea - I've gotten or given uno, fluxx, and phase 10
posted by nuclear_soup at 7:43 AM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Mom gets us the spray on de-icer for our cars...really helps when you're in a rush and don't have the time to scrape the windows.

A few years back she got us wind up flashlights and they were a big hit. (Still use mine).
posted by NoraCharles at 7:43 AM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

You could get a LED flashlight/pointer keychain here---the site also has tons of mini gadgets and fun items at good prices. Order early, though, bc they ship free, but it takes a while.
posted by asras at 7:44 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I knew I was old when I started to enjoy getting a kitchen towel in my stocking every year. Sometimes they're holiday-themed, sometimes just plain, but who doesn't need more kitchen towels, I ask you??

My husband and father-in-law get Matchbox cars every year.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:02 AM on November 15, 2008

I think a good rule of thumb is to purchase things your 10-year-old self would have wanted but your parents vetoed.

I always get balsa wood and planes mini-lego sets (the kind that only have 7 pieces in the are still totally awesome) and Mrs. Quhzk likes getting lipstick and candy in her stocking.

Mrs. Quhzk also suggests chapstick, little boxes of fashion jewelry, socks, toiletries, Christmas Pez ("it wouldn't be Christmas without Pez"), Kindereggs (if you can find them), personalized Christmas ornaments, and mini-tool kits (jeweler's screwdrivers and magnetic screw finders for my fencing stuff)

Mrs. Quhzk is quite the Christmas-gift-giving expert.
posted by QUHZK at 8:25 AM on November 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

Great thread! Going along with the mustache theme, I think these pencils are pretty cute. That site in general has some fun stuff, like this. Personalized luggage tags could be nice, or these are kind of funny.
posted by katie at 8:27 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you live near a Restoration Hardware they have some fun stocking stuffers with a nostalgic bent.

I like miniature packets of coffee.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:33 AM on November 15, 2008

for your musician brother - quality 1/4 inch cables, mic cables, midi cables, etc? picks and pick-holders/cases? and adaptors (that convert 1/4 inch ends into 1/16 inch ends or vice versa... stuff like that)? (hmm, i'd love to get a quality microphone in my christmas stocking heh...) what sort of musician is he? if he's a drummer, you can get him a pair of quality drumsticks (find out what sort of drummers and drum styles he likes; different sticks are suited to different styles) in a nice soft drumstick-case. or if he's a guitarist - maybe a pick-up for his guitar (or any classical string instrument, for that matter)? a small pocket-size recorder of sorts, to record song ideas conveniently? (although i suppose cellphones and iPods can do this these days.) ohhh! cable-ties! sets of guitar strings! capos! guitar pedals!
and if he plays a classical string instrument, quality rosin and a nice polishing cloth for his instrument are good stocking stuffers.
there are so many small accessories that musicians need, actually. but what exactly your brother would like depends on the sort of musician he is.

for your mom - maybe travel-sized cosmetics? or one of those inflatable pillows? probably travel shops would have lots of options available.
posted by aielen at 8:40 AM on November 15, 2008

I find the lipgloss from Bath and Body Works in my stocking every year, and I have a serious addition to that lipgloss now. B&BW has other small travel sized items as well that would work well for your mom. Also, someone above said cute office supplies, and I usually get those as well. My mom gets me fun shaped post-its every year because I love them.

Best Buy has cheapsie (JVC Gummy) earbud headphones in all manner of color, and I have about seven pairs of those because I'm always destroying mine or losing them. Also, I think just about every Best Buy in the country has guitar picks and strings now, and if not, look at Best to find your local musical instruments store. They are very comparable to Guitar Center. And what about smaller packs of blank dvds or cds for your musician brother?

The dollar section (or Crap Trap as we like to call it) doesn't have a terribly wonderful selection of stuff, at least at the one by me anyway. But, there are plenty of stores that have similar things, like Michael's, Joann's, Dollar Tree (durr), etc., and I can usually find some cheesy but useful things like door stops.
posted by santojulieta at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2008

USB sticks!
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2008

I dont think you can buy them in the states, but Kender Eggs were my favorite. Its chocolate and a toy you get to build yourself!
posted by Black_Umbrella at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2008

Fredflare has some good stuff, though a lot of it is around $10, like:

Bacon bandages (they also have ones that look like tattoos, toast, hearts, etc.)
candy cane shot glasses
really funky Japanese toothpasetes with flavors like caramel, peach, orange
catapult toy cat launcher
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:38 AM on November 15, 2008

A couple of years ago I made these instant cocoa sets.
They were fun to make, and wel appreciated for a cold christmas!
posted by HFSH at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Everyone loves a Slinky!
posted by dilettante at 2:18 PM on November 15, 2008

My favorite stocking stuffer ever was Slim Jims. I love to snack on them, and my husband literally FILLED a stocking full of them. I enjoyed them for at least a week before they were all gone. :P
posted by tryniti at 4:06 PM on November 15, 2008

We still get gum, ice scrapers, and manicure kits (you can never have enough pairs of nail clippers!). The gum is my favorite.

My dad collects freebies from his tech conferences for work throughout the year, so we always end up with weird LED keychains, magnets, or puzzles, too.

When I was a kid, my mom always put those Life Saver books in, so we had like 10 rolls of life savers to occupy us on the road trip to Grandma's.
posted by messylissa at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2008

A beanie baby poking out of the top of every stocking looks pretty cute. Make sure your dog can't reach them.
posted by Roger Dodger at 5:26 PM on November 15, 2008

Lego sets and Pez, for any age group. Such a massive variety of themes, and such low price points, make them perennial winners.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:50 PM on November 15, 2008

Haven't received them in the past, but told my lovely wife to feel free to stuff one or more of the Oxford University Press A Very Short Introduction titles in the stocking this year. I plan to do the same for her. A Very Short Introduction books are about the size of a small moleskine, succinct and generally well-written, and available on over 190 topics. They're a good way to dip into new areas of knowledge.
posted by hansfriedrich at 9:50 PM on November 15, 2008 [5 favorites]

Magazines that might interest that stocking owner. Find ones that they wouldn't buy for themselves but would still find neat.

They are always fun to sit on the couch after holiday-stomach-stuffing and read/flip-through.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:46 AM on November 16, 2008

Seconding the magazine suggestion -- in my family, a few of us go to a bookstore with a good magazine section and pick out fun stuff that appeals to each person's interests that they don't already subscribe to or read. And it's fun to sit around and read them during lazy holiday down-time.
posted by runtina at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2008

Anything from Fred Flare: This is everything under 10 bucks
Anything from Atypyk: French and kind of frustrating to navigate but awesome

My family typically gets:
Tavern puzzles
Lip balm
Novelty socks
Those mini gift kit things at the checkout in Barnes and Noble
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:45 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

DR Handmade strings now make the greatest, longest-lasting coated strings ever: Peacock Blue. Yes, they are blue.

A clip on tuner is also really good idea.

I also like Zen Stones.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:52 PM on November 16, 2008

I love stockings! They are way more fun to shop for than regular presents. The biggest challenge is trying not to spend a fortune while not just buying a bunch of cheap knickknacky crap.

-Something stocking sized that matches the person's interests. My mom and I both love to cook, for instance, so nice but inexpensive stocking stuffers might be something like the nice small silicon spatulas that Williams-Sonoma has, or a small game for my husband or sister (card game, or these pirate games), a blues cd or those nifty little $1.00 CD openers for my dad, sewing notions or gorgeous fabric for my mom the quilter.
-You can find great inexpensive jewelry at local craft fairs or on Etsy. Check these out!
-We always have socks
-The chocolate orange for my dad; other candies like local pinot noir truffles
-Scratch it tickets
-chapstick assortment for my friend who always loses hers
posted by purenitrous at 7:10 PM on November 16, 2008

Mitch Hedberg said that a severed foot was the ulitmate stocking stuffer.
posted by lpsguy at 7:52 AM on November 17, 2008

Response by poster: Lots of great ideas - thanks guys! There's too many to mark as "best answer," but everyone has helped. Feel free to add more ideas, because a lot of people (including me) are stil watching this thread. Thanks again everyone!
posted by kidsleepy at 8:45 AM on November 17, 2008

Last year, I got some of my stocking stuffers from which has some quality stuff, albeit of questionable taste at times :) Also, you mentioned you have a tech-geek dad, which sounds like a perfect person to get stocking stuffers from (here and here and here). I was just perusing around the site, and I'm seriously intrigued by the Miracle Berry Fruit Tablets...
posted by karyotypical at 4:38 AM on November 21, 2008

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