What to gift my very practical boyfriend?
February 3, 2012 6:41 PM   Subscribe

What to get very practical Boyfriend for (a very late!) Christmas or (early) Valentine's day?

Live with boyfriend of 5 years. Love him lots. He's responded best to practical gifts that improve his routines..but out of ideas. Still haven't gotten him a proper Christmas present (not that he cares...but I kind of do!) Need inspiration.

Boyfriend is: very sweet, intelligent, shy, bookish (but he works in the industry so a book or gift cert won't work), a Virgo, likes routines, likes coffee, maps, good food, cozy things...

Some winning gifts in the past: a metal french press (keeps coffee extra warm! he uses it every day), big comfy reading chair, cozy slippers, having the zipper on his favorite coat fixed for him, fancy shaving cream...

Things that probably won't work: overly cheesy romantic things, anything that is super-social, anything that involves some kind of gimmick (ex favor coupons or a scavenger hunt).

Also, I'm in debt right now, so nothing super fancy. 40 bucks would probably be my limit, and that's pushing it.

Thanks mefi :)
posted by Calicatt to Human Relations (33 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Powdered Brewery Wash which I have found to be incredible for cleaning coffee brewing equipment. That french press will never be so clean... Also works very well for cleaning glass jars—in which I store ground coffee—and in which freshly ground beans leave a residue that just can't be removed by normal soap or detergent means. The wash also works wonders on stained carafes which come out sparkling. Seriously, this stuff is great and should appeal to a man of a practical bent. As an added bonuses, it is both a bit obscure—which, IMO always adds to the gift-value quotient—and goes a very long ways, ie., a little bit does a lot of work.

Alternatively, there is always this, although, as to practicality, your mileage may vary.
posted by bz at 7:01 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Bahhahahaa I want him to gift that mask to me! thanks for the suggestions, bz
posted by Calicatt at 7:05 PM on February 3, 2012

He sounds like me. I bet he'd like a nice fountain pen, maybe along with a nice ink color that matches his eyes.
posted by jwhite1979 at 7:15 PM on February 3, 2012

Slightly above your price range are maps from Raven Maps. They're really quite beautiful.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:15 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Smartwool socks.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:21 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

having the zipper on his favorite coat fixed for him.

Any other crazy broken stuff that you can replace? Small annoyances that can be fixed? Particularly worn kitchen gear is often a good place to start. Or maybe new bedsheets or towels or pillows? You could also get his kitchen knives professionally sharpened, which only costs a few bucks per blade and can often be done while you wait.

Basically, it's always really cool when you receive a gift and think think "Wow! I've been meaning to do / buy / replace that for ages!"
posted by SemiSophos at 7:39 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

A really nice robe. Some of the stuff at Uncommon Goods might fit the bill as well.
posted by Ostara at 7:42 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

A nice notebook or pen.
posted by Gilbert at 7:53 PM on February 3, 2012

My husband is annoyingly practical like that. Gifts that were winners in the past:
- I prepared his tax return for him
- I sorted out a paperwork situation that had been hanging over his head for years (he had to write to a pension fund company overseas and get his fund rolled into his Australian one).
- I wrote to the company that makes his favourite coffee and ordered it in decaf. He prefers decaf coffee in general, but didn't know this brand came in decaf, because that variety is not stocked in Australian stores.
- He claims his favourite ever present was when I bought a $10 plastic floor protector for the area under his desk in our home office. I know, right? (It wasn't even meant to be a birthday gift - I just happened to buy it a few days before his birthday). It solved a problem he had where the wheels of his chair were getting tangled in the rug, but he didn't want it to scratch the floor.

Basically for people like this I think you have to look for ways in which his life is non-optimal, and come up with creative solutions for those. What makes him stressed/annoyed? What does he ever grumble about? What does he occasionally wish was invented that might actually be already invented if you look hard enough?
posted by lollusc at 8:20 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

How about an electric kettle to quickly heat up water for that French press?
posted by DingoMutt at 9:07 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend sounds a bit like me. Ideas:
- A couple of archival document boxes (the kinds used in actual archives/special collections/libraries), which tend to be about 15" x 5" x 10.5" in dimension, and usually gray-or-tan-or-light green in tone. And some acid free folders to go in the boxes. For vertical filing of misc. documents. If he already has a map collection, he might really need a map-sized version of this for horizontal storage.
- I've been wishing someone would buy me an older-style safety razor so that I might ditch the plastic disposable razors...
- Anything survival-oriented, like a hand-cranked rechargeable radio. Or actually, a small unit for collecting solar power to charge various devices.
- Seconding suggestions for knife sharpening--don't forget items like lawnmower blades which need sharpening too.
- Tools? Like maybe a decent level, or a cheap (but perfectly functional) corded drill?
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:20 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you live in a place with a winter season and your bf uses a touch screen phone of any sort, maybe touch-screen friendly gloves? Also seconding Bennett's solar power device charger too.
posted by greta simone at 9:59 PM on February 3, 2012

I generally opt out of gift exchanging wherever possible due to the impracticality of it all (i.e., if I needed something, I'd buy it myself). But having been the lucky beneficiary of a certificate or two for professional massages, I can't imagine that this gift would ever go unappreciated.
posted by BestiaDeAmor at 10:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's very practical, he might be flattered when you tell him that he is so practical that he is hard to buy for, and could he please provide a list of some sort of things that he wouldn't buy for himself. Amazon has a nice system for that.

Being so practical, he'll have no trouble with your price ceiling. Indeed, you might avoid mentioning it, as he'll probably apply his own downward pressure on prices.

He might even enjoy something a little impractical, from you.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:10 PM on February 3, 2012

If he likes a big, comfy reading chair, what about a nice reading lamp or reading light to go with it? Or perhaps a warm and cozy lap blanket he could curl up under?

My wife's secret technique is to find an interest of mine, then drill down to it into the really esoteric or weird items that I would enjoy, but would never think to buy for myself because I'd never even know they existed. For example, I have a favorite sports team, and she's gotten me a Mr. Potato Head in their colors, a piece of their old stadium, and a team-themed yard gnome over the years.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:35 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wanted to add: or a leatherman or similar multitool, that's the very essence of practical.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:36 PM on February 3, 2012

practical, inexpensive gifts my husband has been super happy to receive:

- a very long shoehorn
- an ipod armband for running
- a warm hat with built-in earphones
- a new wallet
- a shoulder bag / man purse
- an assortment of spices (he loves to cook)
posted by seriousmoonlight at 1:59 AM on February 4, 2012

If he likes his French press, perhaps he would like Bodum Travel Mug. Or Smartcafe mug. Or Hario hand grinder. Or milk frother.
posted by leigh1 at 2:59 AM on February 4, 2012

Still on a coffee theme - pick up a second hand bread maker and a heat gun from a charity store - and your boyfriend can set himself up to roast his own coffee.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 3:14 AM on February 4, 2012

Other suggestions:
- the Prop
- Magisso White Teacup
- mini knife
- Vacuum Bottle
- Bodum Thermo Glasses
- mini espresso maker
posted by leigh1 at 3:17 AM on February 4, 2012

One of my favorite practical gifts was when a boyfriend bought me a new shower head. He's now an ex-boyfriend and even if we weren't good friends now, I'd still think of him fondly every time I showered. They're really easy to install and I've taken it from apartment to apartment over the years.

Key chain screwdrivers also look useful.

I know reusable bags are kind of an odd suggestion, but I really like the ones I got from Envirosax, they roll up tiny, they hold a lot and are strong and have been incredibly useful. This company makes some that are monochrome which are more stereotypically male acceptable. I keep one in my backpack for grocery shopping or just needing an extra bag to carry stuff in.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:58 AM on February 4, 2012

What about an inverted map (the idea being that the positioning of the map - north = up - is arbitrary)? Or a Hobo-Dyer equal-area projection that minimizes geographical distortion in the globe? Or Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion map?
posted by outlandishmarxist at 5:28 AM on February 4, 2012

2nding a milk frother. Bought one for an ex, who loved it. It doesn't make a real latte, of course, but it adds a fancy little touch to morning coffee that's quite pleasant.
posted by coppermoss at 5:45 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Specialty food items on which I might not ordinarily splurge go over well with me - dried fruits, excellent cheese, a bottle of truffle oil, specialty coffee. These things provide pleasure and learning experiences and then they're gone, so no long-term clutter.

Also, better versions of stuff I already have, like cooking equipment, a camera tripod, bike headlight or better speedometer, a great hat, etc.
posted by jon1270 at 6:22 AM on February 4, 2012

Sort of along the lines of "cozy things".. what about a pair of "wonder warmers"? I think they make great gifts if you live in a cold area.
posted by one little who at 6:51 AM on February 4, 2012

My wife gave me a bendy tripod with red and white light LEDs - Joby Gorillatorch Flare The awesome thing about it is the red light, that for me at least, doesn't wake me up when I am reading before bed. I just turn on the red light and read - then in 10 minutes it's sleepy time. It used be more like an hour before I was ready to go to bed with reading in bed.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:36 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a toaster that poaches or boils your eggs while it makes the toast. My children love it and can use it themselves. Every body that has seen this thinks it is the coolest thing ever:

My favorite go-to gift is a Oregon Scientific Rm313pa Exactset Fixed Projection Alarm Clock. It's around $22.00 on amazon. com. It is an atomic clock, so it's always right, and it projects the time on the ceiling or wall.
posted by myselfasme at 9:58 AM on February 4, 2012

My beau is the same way. I have had luck getting him things that he already needed but just hadn't gotten around to getting yet. Like a pair of replacement shoes (I knew his size, brand and style already, though).
posted by Stewriffic at 10:24 AM on February 4, 2012

If he also happens to be into dress shirts... perhaps he'd be touched and see the practical utility of some nice metal collar stays. Often overlooked when dressing up, but super useful. If there's more of a "utility" itch, there are some that act as multitools as well.
posted by sub-culture at 1:02 PM on February 4, 2012

How old is his bed pillow? mrgood is still astounded that I replaced his "perfectly good" more than a decade-old pillow with one that could be washed and fluffed, and then flabbergasted that pillows might need protecting. And then every night he sleeps like a baby on it, because he no longer has to fold his pillow in half to get any sort of thickness, like he had to with "Ol' Flatsy".
posted by peagood at 3:21 PM on February 4, 2012

Response by poster: OMG! These answers are great! Thank you all so much. You actually hit on a lot of things he already has and loves, so you've clearly got him down. I'll be shopping for the ones he doesn't have asap :)
posted by Calicatt at 8:37 AM on February 5, 2012

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