10 Awesome gadgets worth the money. Maybe.

2018-01-18T20:51:13+00:00Holidays, Spending|

I love ‘The Awesome’. It’s a place I like to visit in my dreams, on weekends, and when someone offers me free babysitting. You know ‘The Awesome’ when you see it. You may feel warm rays of sunshine, have an urge to do the happy dance, or perhaps hear nothing but the sounds of silence. If you hear the musical stylings of Justin Bieber, BTW, you’re doing ‘The Awesome’ wrong. Sorry.

Anyways, I want you to do ‘The Awesome’ right this year. And to get it right you’ll need to appeal to those human sense things. They’re called sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch, people, and these things can unleash happy emotions over the holidays and beyond.

Since gift giving is about hitting the heart with a sense or two, I’m rounding up ‘The Awesome’ gadgets that make my cost-conscious senses tingle.

Here’s are my 10 awesome gadgets worth the money. Maybe.

1. An eReader

I have a thing for books. Books smell good, they feel delicious between my fingertips, and I’ve been known to devour a good read in a single sitting. The problem with dead-tree literature is that crawling babies and feral teens (same thing, really) can tear the pages apart in a single sitting. Librarians are not fond of infant drool, and it’s quite cumbersome (and a little expensive) to carry a 50 book library (which is totally necessary) with you on trips.


Enter the Sony eReader, an awesome reading gadget that allows me to borrow from the public library, download tomes from a variety of stores, and read anything anywhere without some pervert checking out my title.

The ‘digital e-ink’ or ‘e-paper’ is easy on the eyes and looks like reflection-free real paper. Bonus points for being able to increase font sizes and mark pages for later.

If there’s a voracious reader on your gift list, be sure to compare the Kobo, Kindle, Nook, and Sony for the right size, storage, and functionality. Expect to pay at least $100 for this generous gift, and please preload it with Jenny Lawson’s (aka The Bloggess) hilarious bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. You’re welcome.

2. The goLITE BLU

Do you have a case of ‘The SADs?’ The SADs, more commonly known as seasonal affective disorder, hit me like clockwork every November when we’re forced by polite society and electronic peer pressure — my computer changes the time — to move our timepieces back one hour to enjoy a life with less light. This is also the time of year I’d like to tell polite society (and my computer) to suck it.


As the days get darker I feel sadder, and this moody pit is most definitely the opposite of ‘The Awesome’. So this November ‘The Carl’ decided his sad, energy-zapped Squawkfox was no fun, and he made the happy decision to zap me with some serious light therapy.

My happy Smurfy blue glow lamp thing is the Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device (around $120 in the USA and in Canada) and it makes me feel better. There’s some science going on here, but I love this lampy thing ’cause it’s portable, rechargeable, and keeps me from eating my keyboard during the winter. May all your senses feel better. Hugs.

3. The Otterbox

Dropping your smartphone and watching it shatter is not a good feeling. I haven’t upgraded my phone yet, but when I do, I’ll be sure to wrap that costly piece of droppable technology in a protective case.

Image: otterbox.com

The Otterbox Defender is a cool cover for any mobile device. Priced from around $20 in the USA (and $35 in Canada), it’s a great gift for any gadget-loving friend or family member you’d like to keep in contact with online and in real life. Touching.

4. Le Creuset

Food tastes better when cooked in my Le Creuset. There’s something about this cast-iron cookware that makes me happy, and it’s not just the pretty porcelain-enamel colors that help turn a plain roast or seasonal stew into something stunning to serve.

le creuset

I’ve cooked, braised, simmered, and scorched (gaw) with mine for nearly 10 years, and the enamel is still practically non-stick and stain-free. Prices start at $200, so a Le Creuset dutch oven is not an inexpensive gift, but it’s a high quality piece of gorgeous cookware that stands the test of time. Many families pass down these pots as emotional reminders of holiday dinners and events past.

5. Noise Cancelling Headphones

Cubicle warriors, frequent fliers, and anyone who likes a little peace with their quite may love a set of noise cancelling headphones. This fancy-dancy headgear is worth the spend if your office or study zones kill your mojo and turn your work into wonk. Just sticking them on your head may repel the office talkers too. Phew.

By sampling the sounds of your environment and digitally playing back the opposite, they cancel out much of the noise. Of course they play your favorite tunes too.

Lifehacker reviewed several, and came up with a list of their top headphone choices. While pricy at $250, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9 headphones are their top pick.

6. Yaktrax

Looking for that runner’s high in the icy cold of winter? Not me. I’m just looking to stay vertical while walkin’ the dog during my morning jaunt.


I love my Yaktrax Pro Traction Cleats (for Snow and Ice) grippy things since falling is a pain in the ass, and enjoying a toe-tapping winter walk feels great. Priced at $15 and up, Yaktrax are an inexpensive way to stay active for walkers or runners, and make a great gift for those who need a little grip for staying steady on their feet. Getting outside feels nice too.

7. Headlamps

Perfect for flossing your teeth during a power outage is the super versatile headlamp. I stick this thing on my dog’s collar at dusk, mount it on my bike helmet for safety at night, and use it to find my kid’s soother which slid under the refrigerator five minutes ago.



The Energizer 7 LED Headlight is the perfect stocking stuffer for around $15. Let there be light.

8. Label Maker

Declutter that unsightly mess for under $30 with an Epson Label Maker — the most popular maker of labels on Amazon. People love this thing for, well, making labels.

label maker

My label maker is an old Dymo, and it leaves me wanting for nicer fonts and greater print options. I’m big into pretty labels. Sigh. Anyhoo, these gadgets are great for labeling binders full of financial paperwork (or women), keeping a home office tidy, and identifying all those boxes in storage. ‘Cause, well, no one likes hunting through 100 boxes to find the one stuffed with holiday decorations.

9. Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush

A healthy smile can light up any room and keep the costly dentist drill away. Clean teeth feel good and make standing under mistletoe kiss-worthy. Sure, a regular toothbrush can handily get the dental job done, but my electronic buzzing brush does a better job and flosses too.

I wanted to photograph my Oral-B Professional Electric Toothbrush, but decided that showing you my used toothbrush is kinda gross. I’m always happy to smile though, so there’s that. See the headlamps section for my dental refresher.

10. Baby Food Maker

Have you seen the price of jarred baby food? I haven’t done a price check comparing homemade baby food to store-bought (yet) but I know there’s money to be saved by making your own baby chow. I think homemade can be healthier too.

baby food maker

Anyways, the internets can laugh me off the frugal blogosphere for buying a single purpose gadget (bite me) ’cause I love my all-in-one baby food steamer and blender. At first I used my 7-year-old hand blender, various pots, steamer inserts, and more pots to cook, steam, and blend my daughter’s dinners. Then my hand blender broke. Then I got sick of doing 100 dishes. Then I bought this gadget and it’s paid for itself.

The Freshfoods Cook-n-Blend Baby Food Maker is BPA-free, has two blend settings (chunky and smooth), and steams everything from pears to peas. I make up to four days of food in one go, and clean-up is simple.

This awesome gadget puts a smile on my face, makes my daughter’s messy mouth giggle, and ‘The Carl’ even likes using it too. If only it would wipe down the floor and high chair when dinner is done.

There’s the popular Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker as well.

There you have it! All the gadgets that make life more awesome by tingling my senses. What’s on your gift list this year?



  1. Jon @ Grown Up and Stuff December 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Also chucking in my recommendation for an Otterbox – this thing has saved my phone from so many bumps and bruises it must have paid for itself 20x over! The designs are awesome, and I feel confident throwing it across the room….

  2. Dave B December 6, 2012 at 9:28 am

    baby food in bottles is a scam. You don’t need it. up to 6 months, do the different stages of pre-mix porridge like stuff. after 6 months, start introducing a new food every 3 days, ( and keeping a log of what she ate, in case of allergies ) just chop them up small, beans, peas, noodles, cheerios, fruits, things you can put into your mouth and eat by squishing with your tongue against the top of your mouth.

    If you get your kidlet on too much puree’d stuff you’ll just have difficulty with solid foods later.

    Meat is a little bit trickier.. but again just chop it really really small.

    Our 10 mo old is eating basically the same things we are now.

  3. Dave Kehoe December 6, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Hey, I might point out that one way to save a little on the headphones would be to get noise isolating earbuds instead. You aren’t paying for that expensive noise cancelling circuitry but the right tips will do a similar job effectively. As an added bonus, they often integrate with a cell phone, allowing you to control it without having to take your phone out of the pocket.

    I’m not as frugal as you, so I went with a fairly expensive set from Etymotics. (see here: http://www.etymotic.com/ephp/hf3.html) but there is quite a range of quality products to be had, many good ones less than $100.

  4. Robin from Frugal Family Times December 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I teach classes on making baby food through my work as a Community Dietitian. The tool I recommend most is a baby food grinder. These super low tech devices just use a hand crank to grind up soft, cooked foods. I liked to use mine at the table. Easy to wash and carry places and the price is right at less than $20.

    I’m totally with you on the ereaders, Kerry! I was resistant until my husband gave me one as a gift. Now I love it. Great for not getting carpal tunnel when you read massive books and I love that when I fall asleep reading (all the time!) it remembers what page I was on last.

    Great list – I need to check out the SAD light. Thanks!

  5. Flora December 6, 2012 at 10:52 am

    You can get the great little Kobo Mini eReader for less than $100–about $80 if you pay full retail, and they were on sale for $50 on Black Monday. As the name implies, the Kobo Mini is small — lightweight, and it fits into a pocket–but this is part of its charm. You can carry it with you anywhere and will hardly notice you have it until you happen to have some free moments and realize that, yes, you can go on reading that murder mystery you were so engrossed in. When I bought the Mini, I was a little worried that the small screen would be hard to read. But I have not found that to be a problem, and the portability is great.

  6. SavingMentor December 6, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Speaking of “the awesome”, I had someone ask me to jump in line at Subway today because she just wanted to buy a gift card. I said “sure, go ahead”. She spent $20 on a gift card and then spent $7 buying my meal. That was pretty awesome and I thanked her profusely!

  7. Diana B December 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Kerry, I love your list and your blog, but I must disagree with you about the lack of light this time of year. Really, it’s not the time change that causes there to be less light, it’s the season and the way the earth revolves around the sun. I look forward to going off of daylight “savings” time so I can have just a little more light in the morning! It would be so much nicer if we did not have to set our clocks ahead or back twice a year…. Diana

  8. John Morris December 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Kerry, as a facility manager, I have attended seminars on lighting and human health… you are absolutely correct about “some science going on” with the goLITE BLU, including recent discoveries of photoreceptors in the eye, and how they respond to light colors (or, temperatures, measured in Kelvins). I’ll send a .pdf doc from a seminar I attended a year ago to your gmail address. Take care!

  9. David December 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm


    Way to go on supporting the GoLite Blu.

    I do demonstrations at Costco on Phillips products. And the light is an amazing idea to increase our energy, without chemicals.

    As I am a big proponent of Phillips Products, have you checked out the sonicare toothbrush?

    Have a great December.

  10. nancie December 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I just ordered the goLiteblue. I hope it will perk up my hubby. And I am also curious to see if it will help my 15 yr old get up in the mornings. She has always had trouble getting up in the mornings….and we don’t try to get her up until 9am. Here’s hoping.

  11. Turia December 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Great list for the most part. I do disagree with the baby food maker- we did baby-led weaning with our son (now 19 months) and never had to puree a single thing. SO much easier, less stressful, less time consuming. He ate what we ate (modified where necessary). I have a photo of him on Christmas morning (7 1/2 months) chowing down on fingers of roasted sweet potato, potato and carrot, and eating chunks of salmon.

    It doesn’t work for all families and their lifestyles, and I know some families who did some baby-led weaning and some traditional spoon-fed purees. But I wouldn’t list a product to make producing baby food easier in a top ten, not at least without giving baby-led weaning a shout-out as well.

  12. Mairead December 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    For baby food: Do big batches then freeze them into small containers (we used “Baby cubes” http://www.babycubes.com) and it was so worth it! One day of dishes instead of several, and you can mix and match what you’re feeding little one for variety.

  13. PunRun December 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I’ve received an e-reader last year as a present but I’ve been using it recently more often as I’m able to download more application. For bookworms it is definitely a delightful gift.

    If I didn’t subscribe, I wouldn’t have known this great list, particularly the Yaktrax. I’ve been going out a lot and almost fall several times. As hard as I try it is still cannot be helped not to slip on a solid ice. I love my boots but I hate it when it turns into a skate when stepping on the ice. Is there a Yaktrax that has a less noticeable straps? It is definitely a must have.

    Looking forward for more reviews and tips.

  14. Katy December 7, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Had to laugh at Diana B’s comment….”Really, it’s not the time change that causes there to be less light”…I’m guessing she’s living closer to the equator than me. I’m in SK, and I notice the daylight hours shrinking — winter sun’s up at 9ish, down at 5ish; during the summer it’s 6ish to 9ish……and I’m sure the people up north can say much more (24 hour darkness vs 24 hour sun).

    I’m looking into getting a SAD light as well. Thanks for the info!

  15. Cathy Stidwill December 7, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Hi Kerry. Please pass on to your readers that the proper way to use a SAD light is to start in September, when daylight hours begin to shorten. Nice to see them coming down in price!
    Love your web site!

  16. Mary December 7, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I can’t praise the blu light for use in the shorter days of winter. My husband bought me one a few years before he passed away for the same reason your hubby did….he got tired of seeing one “SAD” wifey…:-) I can honestly feel the light spreading in my head when I use it…..definitely tells me it’s something I need!

  17. Econocanucks December 7, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Our picky eater refused to eat pureed baby food. And we tried quite a variety of veggies, fruit and cereals (all home made). She finally started eating when we fed her plain rice with a pinch of salt and a pat of butter. Not mashed or pureed. So we tried chunky veggies and never looked back. Now at age four, she’s the only kid in her day care who asks for a second serving of salad. And she calls junk food “junk”.

  18. Diana B December 7, 2012 at 10:31 am

    The days start getting shorter right after the summer solstice! I do not like “daylight” savings time! There is no savings, no one is making the day longer by shifting the time. It’s like trying to make a blanket longer by cutting it off at the top and sewing it to the bottom…. btw, I live in Michigan and experience both seasons, winter & construction!

  19. Geoff Burke December 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

    When our old Oral B electric toothbrush started to die, I asked our dentist what he thought was the best replacement.

    He said the Philips Sonic Care has the patent on the ultrasonic vibration leaving all the rest (including Oral B) to just rely on mechanical rotation.

    We just bought a Sonic Care from Costco and it definitely it a different sensation. It’s actually pretty cool.

  20. Debby Moreau December 9, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Binders full of women – hahahahahahahahaha! Brilliant!

  21. Daisy @ Everything Finance December 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I adore my e-reader. I didn’t buy it for myself, but I would have.. it would have been SO worth the money. If you are a traveler or really if you just are an avid reader, it’s so much more convenient. You don’t have to lug around big books, it’s light.. I don’t have to convince you though.

  22. Levi December 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I love my Kindle. It has saved me a ton of money and I get to read a lot more. Plus I save a lot of space having all my books in one small compact package. They have a lot of free books also and there are some great blogs that keep you up to date with the latest free kindle books.

  23. Louise December 15, 2012 at 2:00 am

    I’d like to have an e-reader.

  24. Daniella Ivette December 31, 2012 at 5:41 am

    When it comes to e-readers, I looove my Kindle. I have the basic one, no ads. I don’t buy e-books much, but swap them with other Kindle-loving pals… BTW, I bought my kindle with money I got from selling my old paper books, so win-win!

  25. Nick March 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Pretty cool list – I haven’t got an e-reader yet though am extremely tempted by the Kindle, they look very slick and desirable; I don’t actually read much at all but I’ve the mind and word of a reader/writer, I suppose I skim-read and hop-around everywhere but, I’ve a ton of amazing books in mind and on-list that I intend to read…

    Have you had any experience, or has anybody – had any experience with a Kindle? – is there any reason the Sony eReader is better or worse than it… ?

  26. MammaG May 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Those headlamps are great – but only for the wearer. For the rest of us, you shine it right into our eyes every time you look our way. Please, people, put the things away unless you’re reading and/or alone.

  27. Tash May 26, 2013 at 5:18 am

    I have to say that I love my Kindle. I cant count how much money it has saved me with all the free books available on it.
    Some of the newer Android tablets have the ability to be able to get all books for “free”, but I don’t think I will ever be without my little e-Reader again.

  28. Laurie September 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I love everything on this list (though as a non mommy type, i would swap baby food processor for full sized. Yard sales in high income areas are your FRIEND <3 )

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