2013 Gift Guide: 10 Awesome Gadgets Worth the Money. Maybe.


Every year I share the gadgety things that help me cut costs, raise my productivity, and make me smile while sticking to a thrifty budget. Because gadgets are generally stuff, it takes a special gadgety thing to make my list and bring a smile.

Like with all things consumerism, take these giftinspiration ideas as ideas and do a little legwork in your area to find the best price for your budget. Or just laugh at what I found useful this year.

Flashback for more gift-giving ideas:

Here are this year’s ten awesome gadgets worth the money. Maybe.

1. Google Nexus 7 Android Tablet

I needed to replace my well-loved and nearly kaput eReader with another book reading gadget. The tablet market these days is huge, and my list of requirements was specific. I wanted something pocketable, affordable, and of super awesome quality. I also wanted to browse online, Skype, shoot/play video, snap photos, play music, write, answer email, play with social media stuff, organize my calendar, entertain a toddler, and basically make my life easier.

Google Nexus 7

An Apple iPad Mini would have been an obvious solution, but at over $400 I couldn’t stomach the expense. Instead I opted for an Android model, the $200 Google Nexus 7 Tablet.

Argued to have the “world’s sharpest 7″ tablet screen” and a bunch of features (including price) beating Apple’s iPads, I’m thrilled with my Nexus tablet. Here’s a fancy Nexus 7 review.

Using the Zinio app to read free magazines from the library is a big bonus — I’ve cut all my magazine subscriptions to zero. Big savings right there. 🙂

2. Poetic Tablet Case

Do yourself a solid by protecting your new tablet with a case. Because accidents happen. Priced from $10 to $20 are the super-snug and protective cases by Poetic.

Poetic CoverMate

Doesn’t matter which tablet you own, I’m pretty sure there’s a softcase or a hardcase within this brand for every budget.

Carl has the Poetic Slimline for his iPad and I use the Poetic CoverMate (pictured above) for my Nexus tablet. Our toddler approved by dropping both tablets while watching The Wiggles.

3. Keurig Single Serve Platinum Brewer

I didn’t want to love the Keurig Single Serve Coffee Brewer. But I love my single serve Keurig coffee brewer. After destroying four carafe coffee machines over the last two years (I blame overuse, misuse, parenthood, long nights, longer days, and the need for caffeine yesterday) I came to the realization that our coffee pot situation was busted.


The problem was waste. We rarely finished the pot, and when we did the coffee was so old and stale from sitting forever that I’d want to hide my tastebuds from the world at Starbucks. The other problem was the coffee. Carl prefers his coffee dark and stronger than battery acid, whereas I prefer something more mellow.

Given the price of coffee waste (significant) and the flavour issue (unbearable), I opted for a single serve brewer so each adult in my household could make their own preferred cuppa when needed.

UPDATE: Canadians are emailing in droves. The Keurig Special Edition Single Serve Brewer is available in Canada.

My biggest complaint with this style of coffee maker is the cost and environmental waste associated with the coffee pods or K-Cups. I solve that issue next.

4. Brew & Save Reusable K-Cup Filter

I didn’t need to think twice (but I did) before buying the Brew & Save Reusable K-Cup Filter for under $10. The marketing claims to save you 75% over buying K-Cups. I should do a price experiment, ’cause I think it may be more if you’re buying fancy coffee.

Brew Save Keurig

I love these filters because I get to choose the coffee I want to drink at the price I want to pay. Also, NO ENVIRONMENTAL WASTE.

UPDATE: Canadians are emailing in droves. The Brew & Save Reusable K-Cup Filter is available in Canada.

From the site: “The Brew & Save reusable coffee filter allows you to reduce your carbon footprint, lower your costs, double your value and increase your personal choices. Now how often can you honestly claim that a product does all that? We say not very often.”

OK, sold.

5. Over-the-air (OTA) Antenna

You can cut your cable and still watch tee veee by harnessing the free (and legal) over-the-air local airwaves in your area with a simple antenna. I wrote about OTA in 10 Legal Alternatives to Costly Cable if you want to learn more about how it works.

OTA Antenna

For those cable cutters living in larger urban centers, buying a simple antenna costs around $50 (once) and could score you several free high-definition stations for years. Total savings = thousands.

The Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna is a very popular model.

UPDATE: Canadians are emailing in droves. Here are two models available in Canada: Winegard Company FL-5000 FlatWave HDTV Indoor Digital Flat Antenna ($49) and the Winegard FL5500A FlatWave Amplified Razor Thin HDTV Indoor Antenna ($99).

6. Shower Filtration System

It’s not easy being green. Or blue. Or to have tresses sporting any variation within the green-blue spectrum. I should know. I got a touch of the Smurfy blues after showering in my high rise building for a few months.

The culprit wasn’t my love for the aquamarine vibe, but rather the chlorine added to the city’s water supply. Oh, and my skin got all dry and gross too. Big city apartment dwellers, condo creatures, and anyone with lighter colored hair (and sensitive skin) living in a high rise building may succumb to this chlorination condition as well. Sorry. Not fun, I know.

Shower Filter

The solution to the overly chlorinated problem is a simple gadget called a shower filtration system. For around $50 you get an activated carbon filter that pops in behind your shower head. The Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter System is a very popular choice.

May you be less blue.

7. Google Nexus 5 Unlocked GSM Phone Android

When I bought my $783 unlocked Apple iPhone, Carl opted for the less pricy Nexus 4 from Google. It has recently been replaced by the Nexus 5.

Google Nexus 4

I made the case for going contract-free with an unlocked phone in Call Me Maybe: Why my $783 unlocked iPhone is a ringin’ deal and I think an Android phone like the Nexus is even a better ringin’ deal.

8. Cards Against Humanity

Described as a party game for horrible people, Cards Against Humanity is the best way to be horrible at home (with your closest friends) while having fun on a budget. This ain’t no children’s game. Sorry.

Cards Against Humanity

Ryan Gosling

Priced at $25, you can afford to be despicable and all sorts of awkward for years with this unbelievable game. There are $10 expansion packs — one is a Canadian version so you can do horrible things to Mr. Dressup or PM Harper. Your choice.

9. 3 Sprouts Storage Bin

Given to Chloe as a baby gift from my sister-in-law (Kate the Great) is the 3 Sprouts Storage Bin.

3 Sprouts

Available in a variety of colorful animals and priced at under $25, I must admit that this collapsable canvas bin is my favorite thing in Chloe’s room. Decluttering after a kid is fast and sometimes the kid will help put stuff away too. The coated interior is easy to wipe clean.

10. The NuBra

Filed in a secret place where I had no idea adhesive backless bra-things existed is a thing called the NuBra Feather Lite bra.


Basically, it’s a bra with two sticky cups that stick to and cup your boobs. It’s a little disturbing, but mostly awesome if:

  1. You have boobs.
  2. You have an outfit that looks bad with bra straps.
  3. You are OK with putting sticky cups on your boobs to wear an outfit that looks bad with bra straps.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I’m going with this. The NuBra is an awesome gadget, and now you know I’ve put sticky cups on my boobs. Just be careful removing them, OK?



  1. Silvereggplant December 15, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Great list! I just read your 2011 and 2012 posts as well and realized that I own a few of the items on those lists and love them all (diva cup, ear thermometer, milk frother, baby food maker, etc) so I’m thinking I should definitely check out some of these items if they are squawkfox approved! The storage bins for kids looks very useful and the card game looks hilarious. I only recently discovered the Zinio app for my ipad and must say it is awesome for someone who loves magazines- now I can read the Economist and maybe some girlie magazines for free- makes buying a tablet much more worthwhile!

  2. Andrew December 16, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Okay, I get it that you are a gadget girl and that you derive pleasure from these things.That’s okay. Really! To solve the coffee conumdrum, we use a kettle and melita cones (+ filters). You can brew 1 cup at a time or a whole pot – just adjust the amount of coffee. It seems to me that burning your way through 4 carafe systems was a huge waste of money for you, and I wonder how long your new (coffee) baby will last. Just a note – we ditched the carafes long ago. They are easy to break so we make our coffee directly into a stainless steel pot or a mug. I cannot recall how long we have been doing this but I think it has been over 20 years…..Gulp!

  3. Duckladynh December 16, 2013 at 6:39 am

    I use a Melitta filter for coffee. I hate those big, fat, wasteful K-cup things. A Melitta filter fits in a small drawer, uses no electricity and can be used with a cloth filter. They come in several sizes, from single cup to lotsa cups. I’m surprised you skipped over it.

    On the other hand, you certainly have saved enough on other stuff to have a “whatever you dammed want” treat once in a while. If the K-cup floats your boat (and you’ve solved most of the horrifying plastic waste problem, good on ye), enjoy. You’ve earned it.

    Hope you’re enjoying Toronto, one of my favourite cities.

  4. Nancy December 16, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Does the OTA Antenna work in Canada?

  5. Lyle December 16, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I have had my Keurig for about 4 years now and I make 2-3 cups of coffee per day (365 days x 4 x 2 = almost 3000 cups of coffee). I think that it has lasted so long as this is the only appliance in which I use distilled water (we have well water in our home). I quickly discovered that using the K-cups resulted in a very expensive cup of coffee. So I bought a reusable K-cup filter (different brand than yours though), grind my coffee (William Sumatra from Costco) in my really old VitaMix blender (20+ yrs). Ah, the perfect cup of coffee.

  6. Patricia Langley December 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I would agree about most left-over coffee, but I’ve solved that with an insulated carafe-type coffee maker. Leftover can be heated in the microwave but it still tastes fresh as it hasn’t “cooked” on a burner for several hours. I make 6-8 cups at a time which last me two days.

  7. Roger Davies December 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I agree with you that the whole pot of coffee thing was a bother for me as well. I haven’t ever done the Keurig thing, opting instead for an Aeropress, which feels a bit less waste generating and allows me to still pick and grind my own beans.

    I’ve since gone with a pretty basic coldbrewing system, which leaves me with a carafe of very concentrated coffee I mix with hot water (winter) or icewater (summer) to get truly delicious coffee quickly and easily with only a bit of pre-prep.

  8. erin quinn December 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

    As for coffee. I use a stainless steel pot, toss in a tsp of ground coffee and a tsp of sugar, add a mug of water and a dash of salt . Bring to boil over medium heat. Pour back into cup. Most of the grounds stay in the pot. Drink the coffee, wash the spoon, and the pot. put it all away and you’re done until your next cup of coffee. I no longer want cream in my coffee. This has a very pleasant taste of coffee, because isn’t that why we drink coffee? PLUS you get the added benefits of natural coffee oils.
    I mean really I saw a woman whining like a spoiled something when she couldn’t find her Keurig flavor in the store. By what are you people being led?

  9. Ajka December 16, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Borrowing books at the public library: $0.00

    Leftover coffee? I don’t know what it is.
    I briefly considered Keurig/Tassimo because we have it at work (and I like the flavoured coffee combined with the milk from the Latte pod) but
    a) I was afraid that I would be drinking it all the time;
    b) the cost is inhibitive
    c) if the coffee makers break like the industrial-size ones, it’s nothing to write home about
    d) the Latte pods I believe sell only combined with Espresso and I am not interested in that.

    So I keep drinking my morning coffee from my 2 yr old Black & Decker or Hamilton Beach (I never remember the brand) cheapo $20 (on sale) coffeemaker and I enjoy the flavoured latte at work (for free). My coffeemakers typically die every 2 years but for the low price I don’t expect them to last forever.

  10. John December 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Oh, Kerry, you are too funny… just goes to show that something doesn’t have to be tech-y… or even plug in, for that matter… to be an awesome gadget!

    I’ve heard lots of good things about the Nexus 7 tablets (7″ or 10″, for those of you to whom size does matter), just haven’t made the leap to a tablet yet. I guess my expectations for my Galaxy S3 were set so high by the print and television ads, I was so excited to get one to replace my BlackBerry… then found it wasn’t necessarily “the next big thing”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid device, but may jump to the Nexus 5 next summer. Anyway, another site for the Nexus 7 tablet review is at http://tablets-review.toptenreviews.com/, with side-by-side comps to other tablets. The only tablet that beat the Nexus waht the Toshiba Excite, which costs half again as much.

    Love my Keurig, and use the reuseable brew filter cup a lot in the summer to brew iced tea… I cut two tea bags open (mix or match) and pour the leaves into the filter, and brew into a 32-oz cup filled with ice.

    My daughter (27) has Cards Against Humanity… these are cards for hilarity… lots of fun!

    Thanks, Kerry

  11. Kathryn December 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Is the OTA Antenna available for use in Canada?

  12. Kerry December 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    @Kathryn Yes, the OTA antennas will work if you live in an urban centre in Canada. Any electronics store that sells TVs will sell OTA antennas. I’ve updated the blog to include two models available in Canada. Hope this helps.

  13. Kia December 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Another great purchase for the price rage is the Motorola Moto G. I was trying to find a good unlocked phone, don’t need alot of bells and whistles but I enjoy having an Android.It is Only 179 for the 8gb or 199 for the 16gb. It has good specs and so far fairly good reviews as well.

  14. Carol S December 21, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Thanks for the tip about the OTA antennas. We are now paying $85 a month for cable alone, and it has crappy reception, “pixellating” when a HD program is shown on our old fashioned non HD TV, and we just went through a 24-hour period of “snow” on all channels when our actual cable became disconnected from its connector box outside in the snow and freezing rain. Enough already, I’m ready to throw this cable company to the wolves. We need a new TV anyway, and an OTA antenna with an HD TV sounds just about right. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, Kerry, from a delighted subscriber to Squawkfox!

  15. Karena January 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    For those coffee lovers for which the Kerig is not a dream machine, check out the Aeropress. While admittedly a recent purchase for me, the Aerobie Aeropress makes a terrffic single cup of coffee or, because of the ability to apply pressure, the simplest double shot of espresso I’ve ever made at home. Comparatively inexpensive compared to the Kerig and with an optional resusable filter, I love that it takes about two minutes to pull a few shots of espresso for a latte and a fuller taste than I found from the Kerig. Bonus feature– it takes up little room in a suitcase – basically a to go coffee maker as long as a microwave is nearby.

    I loved this article last year and was looking forward to the update. This did not disappoint!

    Many thanks

  16. Lily June 30, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Do yourself a solid and look into the Kienna cup. $4.95 for the adapter, and the pod is compostable, and the packet is recyclable. PLUS no gross messy grounds like I dealt with in the my K-cup adapter. Also coffee’s pretty cheap and there are tons of kinds. (Example: a 50 pack of gourmet dark roast is $19.95 versus Costco’s Starbucks Verona blend for $37 for 52 pods….) Anyway, just food for thought. I’ve got Keurig at home and the office and this has cut my coffee spending dramatically. ($0.71/pod with the Costco option, only $0.40)

  17. Teri Miller December 3, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I love cards against humanity! Did you know its open source and available to download and print for free from their website. They suggest printing at staples but I bought the canadian edition at amazon.ca for $35. When it arrived I went to dollarama and bought 3 sheets ea of large black /white posterboard and metallic markers in silver/gold for writing on the black = $8. I used a large piece of cardboard to protect my table a carpenters level as a ruler, a pencil, and a box cutter. I measured my cards marked the paper and cut them up. I got alot of blank cards for very cheap. I then downloaded the pdf files off the cah website and spent a few minutes each day handwriting them. I then visited a few fan sites that have decks for cards as well. Best of all I was able to make my own cards white cards with Family/Friends names (hard and fast rule that they have to be in the room to use them, redraw if they are not). I also went back to the dollarstore and got a nice box for all the cards with room for more. $2 very cheap I had a few laughs transcribing and way cheaper than printing them off or buying completed sets. Another hilarious game that is basically free is “What’s Yours Like?” One person gets a sheet of paper (the guesser) and person to left of them chooses a non specific Noun word (as in Favourite Teacher not Mrs. Fields) and describes it without saying the word. The guesser writes it down and has one guess to the word. If it’s not guessed the noun is passed to the next the person on the left and they describes theirs and so forth. Every person that describes theirs without it being guessed is a mark against the guesser. After that round the person to the left who chose the noun is the new guesser and the person to their left chooses the new noun. You go around the circle until everyones been the guesser. The person with the lowest score wins the game. This game is flat out hilarious for example noun = toothbrush. 1st clue ‘sometimes mine is wet’ 2nd clue ‘mine vibrates alot’ 3rd clue ‘i like mine hard’ 4th clue ‘mine is used everyday’ 5th clue ‘i like the way mine feels in my mouth’ etc. Need at least 3 people but the more the merrier. Completely fun!

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