Your Cyber Monday gift guide
I love Cyber Monday because it combines three of my favorite things: Shopping, gifting, and of course, Cyber. To help you make the most of the day, I’ve made a list of some of my favorite tech and online gifts.
If you hate giving people yet more gadgets, or enjoy making gifts from scratch, scroll down for suggestions of sites and gifts to consider.
What to buy
I will admit that I am a fairly focused and enthusiastic shopper. While I am constantly horrified by the social and environmental implications of my own rampant consumerism, I also really love sharing my finds and favorites — especially with people who hate shopping, and want a shortcut.
Note: I’m including Amazon links for a lot of these items. Any earnings generated from people clicking these links will go to the wonderful work of Common Sense Media; more on them below.
- AirPods holder for Apple Watch strap. I feel like I invented this clever watch-strap AirPods holder myself — because I thought of this idea after losing my AirPods yet again, and was thrilled to discover such a thing was already available! The version I purchased most recently was part of a set of red AirPods accessories.
3. A smart outlet. Are you still turning your lights on and off with your hands, like some kind of caveman? If you have a voice assistant (like an Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod), I can’t say enough good things about moving to voice control for your lighting. I love being able to turn off all the lights without getting out of bed, and I love knowing that if people leave lights on at bedtime, they’ll all turn off automatically at midnight. Plugging a corded lamp into a smart outlet is an easy way to try this out, and if you like it, you can think about replacing your light switches with smart switches.
4. A tiny computer charger. This tiny, folding USB-C/USB-A charger is my favorite for business trips. I can use it to plug into power on the plane, and it can charge 3 devices in my hotel room. The only down side is that it’s big enough that it sometimes tumbles out of a loose-fitting socket.
5. Smart LED light strips. You and your loved ones may not realize that what’s missing from your life is the ability to sync your mood lighting to the sick beats of “It’s a Hard Knock Life”. But I’m telling you: Embedding these light strips in our new bookcase has been DELIGHTFUL.
6. A family charging hub. I got this charger for my suitcase, thinking it would make it easier to plug everything in when I’m on the road. Instead, it’s found a place in our living room, where it gives us enough power to charge two computers and two phones at a time — which is enough to keep us from squabbling over who gets to charge their device.
7. Wrist spinner. I often recommend this gadget to tech users or knitters with sore, tired wrists. It helps you build up your wrist and hand strength, and it’s fun. It’s kind of a challenge to get the trick of sustaining the momentum, which makes it a great fidget, too.
8. Nintendo Labo kit. I want to crawl inside the brain of whoever made this clever cardboard kit, which extends the play value of the Nintendo Switch. An app walks your kid through the process of assembling the cardboard apparatus; then you insert the Switch parts, and it becomes a playable game. (In this case, you get to play a giant robot ravaging a city.) We got a bunch of Nintendo Labo kits for our kids, and while they didn’t play with them a whole lot after the initial build, the build process is so engaging and clever that I felt it was a worthwhile purchase.
9. Robot-controlled curtains. Before investing in smart blinds for our living room, I decided to try out Switchbot’s relatively inexpensive system for adapting our bedroom’s existing curtains. These gadgets have wildly outperformed my best hopes: They’re quiet enough that they don’t bug me, they’re totally able to push aside a wall of heavy curtains, and I am amazed at how helpful it is to have the curtains open and close on a schedule (and to be able to close them with a voice command, if I step out of the shower and find they’re already open). The new version is apparently even quieter, so my own Cyber Monday plan is to buy another set for our living room and dining room.
10. A nightstand or desk charger for Apple gear. I have this 3-in-one charger on my nightstand, where it magnetically charges my iPhone, my Apple Watch and my AirPods. I have tried lots of bedside charging approaches but this is the easiest, tidiest and most reliable.
11. A wagon for online shoppers. If you have an online shopper in your life, this folding wagon is fantastic for parcel pick-up runs. I see people use them in airports or at beaches, too. I feel like we wasted our kids’ toddler years by living without it.
12. The ultimate Apple dock. It took me a long time to commit to this expensive (usually $400-ish, today $300-ish) Thunderbolt dock for my MacBook. I should not have waited, because it’s been a game-changer! Instead of plugging and unplugging multiple monitors, keyboards, backup drives etc. every time I get up from (or return to) my desk, I now have a single, discreet cable that plugs into my MacBook. That’s made it a lot easier for me to move in and out of my office when I need to change settings to get an energy boost.
13. Portable gaming heaven. For someone who plays Steam games, the Steam Deck is a terrific gift. It has largely replaced the PC and the Switch in our teenager’s life. I’m impressed with its flexibility, and how it extends the value of the games our kid already has in his Steam library.
14. The ultimate media server and backup drive. Nothing says “I love you” like 60 terabytes of storage. If that sounds like a bonkers idea to you, then you are not the target market for a Synology NAS (network-attached storage) drive. Pop four hard drives into this black box, and you have a media server and backup drive that keeps itself backed up (because files are duplicated across drives), as well as one that you can upgrade with larger drives when you run out of space. (We started with four 6TB drives but are now at two 12TB and two 18TB). This is definitely an investment, but holy cow, I love it so much that I describe it as my third child. Right now, the best price seems to be from Newegg, but shop around for the best price on both the Synology itself, and the four hard drives your lucky recipient can use to fill it.
The best apps and software gifts
If you’re happy giving an intangible gift, consider giving a software license or subscription. I’m not seeing too many Cyber Monday sales on my favorites, but these are still the platforms and services I would want to give to students, friends and colleagues.
15. Setapp. For $10 per month, Setapp provides access to a huge bundle of useful Mac apps for everything from time tracking to image conversion. It’s a great money-saver, but an even better time-saver: I rarely have to go hunting for the right app or utility, because what I need is usually right in the Setapp subscription. They offer an iOS bundle, too.
16. Common Sense Media membership. Common Sense Media is my favorite source of guidance on kid tech and viewing choices, and I rely on their reviews to avoid watching anything that might be too scary for me, too. (I’m ok with anything that’s not too scary for 15-year-olds. 16-year-olds are another story.) A membership is a great gift for any parent or family.
17. ChatGPT Plus. You can use ChatGPT, Claude.ai or other AI chat platforms for free, but a subscription provides extended access and better performance. Right now I’m keeping my subscription with ChatGPT (mainly because of all the other integrations available), but all the recent shenanigans have me tempted to move to the higher-minded Claude.
18. Creative Market. This site is my favorite source of graphics, slide templates and other design elements. A membership gives the lucky recipient credits to redeem each month.
19. Canva Pro. Canva has pretty much replaced the Adobe suite in my own life, since I now use it for just about all my image editing and document design work. A Pro subscription is a great gift for someone who does online content creation, design or other visual work.
20. Superhuman. I have previously raved about this life-changing email client, which has now kept me at inbox zero for 70 consecutive weeks! It’s worth the subscription cost, especially if you qualify for an educational or nonprofit discount.
21. A Wall Street Journal subscription. If you’re one of the friends who wants to read my WSJ stories, but runs into the dreaded paywall, this is the moment to subscribe: a digital subscription is $26 for the year if you sign up during “cyber week”.
But I don’t want to be a technology pusher!
Since it’s Cyber Monday, I’ve focused on my favorite tech gifts, but I also love to give (and receive!) non-tech items. Here are a few of my favorite places for finding great gifts.
22. Yogibo is beloved in the autistic community because a lot of autistic kids (including mine!) prefer to lounge or sleep on their terrific beanbags. They also make great pillow rolls, including adorable “roll mates” (like this unicorn; I use one to support my arms while knitting.) It’s a great present for kids or adults.
23. Hanna Andersson makes the coziest pajamas (and great kid clothes). I live in their long john-style jammies and often give them as gifts, too. They are pretty expensive at full price but they are often on sale, and they also have Star Wars and Marvel-flavored patterns available.
24. Escents Aromatherapy is a Vancouver-based company that makes wonderful bath products. I use their shower gel every day and I give their bath products and essential oils as gifts.
25. Knit Picks is the source of my favorite yarn, a cotton/bamboo blend called Shine Worsted : It’s soft, drapes beautifully, and is cozy but not too hot to wear in the Pacific Northwest. Consider giving some yarn with a copy of Sequence Knitting: This book, authored by a chemistry Ph.D., provides a new approach to knitting that makes it easy to knit complex textures without having to look at a pattern. I do almost all of my knitting from its pages.
26. Look Human makes funny mugs, T-shirts et cetera. They seem to channel our family vibe, so I often get stocking stuffers or small gifts here.
The joy of handmade (with the help of tech)
For all my shopping enthusiasm, my favorite gifts are often handmade — but technology has played a part in every one of them! Here are some of the best handmade or custom gifts we’ve exchanged in the past few years:
27. A montage of our family throughout history, created with MyHeritageAI’s Time Machine (I collaged the AI-generated images and then framed a print for my mom).
28. A collection of cartoons made by my husband, and posted on a dedicated domain.
29. Quirky, customized hand sanitizer bottles, created with Cricut-cut adhesive vinyl.
30. Handmade chocolates with fancy labels printed on my Brother P-Touch.
31. Hand-knit hats, scarves and wraps, trimmed with Etsy-made leather gift tags or expedited with my Addi Express knitting machine.
32. Custom-printed mugs with original cartoons or messages.
33. Cricut-made posters with my favorite tech slogans, designed and printed by my eldest kiddo.
If you love giving handmade gifts, or you are looking for a present for the crafty person in your life, here are a few Cyber Monday investments to consider:
34. A Cricut cutting machine. Use it to make wood-cut jewelry, infusible ink transfers (that work great with a Cricut heat press) for customizing shirts or bags, vinyl stickers you can use to decorate bottles and containers, and all kinds of other fun projects. It also makes great gift tags and wrapping embellishments.
35. The Addi Express knitting machine. You don’t need to know how to knit to use it, and you can make cozy hats, scarves or larger items very quickly. It comes in two sizes but the king size is much more useful.
36. The Brother P-Touch label maker prints on labels or ribbons, so you can incorporate its tags into handmade items. I am obsessed with this machine, which makes it way easier and faster to make labels because it connects to your phone — so you can voice dictate your labels instead of typing on a tiny plastic keyboard. I also use it to print gift labels (you can add cute icons, and print on colored labels).
The joy of gifting
I hope you’ll take this Cyber Monday roundup as a reminder that tech shopping isn’t just for tech enthusiasts — and that technology can help you find or make wonderful, creative gifts for everyone you love, on and offline. Happy gifting!