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These 16 stocking stuffers are actually useful gifts for everyone on your list

These non-traditional stocking stuffers will wow them this year.

These non-traditional stocking stuffers will wow them this year.


When I was a kid, my dad was in charge of all the stocking stuffer ideas and gifts while my mom took care of the presents that went under the tree. Never being that into shopping, my father purchased said gifts at the only store he ever went to: the town hardware store which, thankfully, has always prided itself on being “more than just a hardware store”.

Throughout our childhoods, my brothers and I received things like gardening gloves, pencils, notepads, 3x5 cards, erasers, and small tools in our stockings (along with a token snickers candy bar or two). Once we were all grown and moved away, he continued to send us each a box of “stocking gifts” every year. He still does. And they still come predominantly from the same hardware store which has been in business since 1960 and is still run by the same family.

Thanks to this family ritual, I always think of stocking stuffer gifts as things you can actually use but rarely think to buy for yourself. My brothers and I have long counted on ours for mundane office supplies and random (though useful) gadgets we never would have thought we needed.

If you’re in charge of filling the family stockings and aren’t sure where to start, here’s a stocking stuffer gift guide inspired by my dad (and his 50-plus years of stocking stuffing experience).

Leather Pruning Gloves

If you have a gardener on your list, these gauntlet-style leather pruning gloves make an excellent gift. They’re perfect for yard work of any kind but especially for pruning thorny roses or picking blackberries.

Camel Wool Socks

These snug, super-warm, camel socks from Mongolia and are a great gift. Camel wool, in my opinion, is softer than traditional sheep wool and just as warm. I bought a couple of pairs of camel wool socks while in Mongolia in 2018 and they are one of my favorite clothing items. Luckily, you don’t have to travel all the way to Mongolia to snag a pair; like most everything these days you can find them for sale on the internet.

Collapsible Popcorn Popper

My dad loves popcorn. When my parents closed the restaurant they owned, my dad brought home the oil popcorn-making cart and parked it on their enclosed patio. This cool collapsible popcorn popper allows you to pop all the fresh popcorn you want in your microwave without using oil or butter. Especially handy for family movie nights when you require more than just microwavable, single-serving bags.

Stumptown Homestead Blend Coffee

Like my dad, I don’t drink tons of coffee: I like just one cup of a really good brew per day. This Homestead Blend from Stumptown with milk chocolate, cherry, and orange flavor notes, is perfect for festive, wintery mornings when you don’t have any reason to leave the house in a hurry.

Manatea Silicone Tea Infuser

More tea than coffee is consumed in my parents’ house. Washable and reusable tea infusers help eliminate traditional tea bag waste. This manatee design is one of my favorites. Among others, there is also a seahorse, a sea turtle, and tea-tanic (read “Titanic”) ocean-themed infusers available.

Patchology FlashPatch Illuminating Eye Gels

If you have someone in your life who laments that they always seem to have puffy eyes and/or dark circles under their eyes, these under-eye patches from Patchology make a wonderful gift. They’re super easy to use: simply place them under your eyes for five minutes, remove them, and gently rub the excess serum into your skin. They’re great for the frequent traveler also.

Moleskin Cahier Pocket Journals

My dad always wrote his to-do lists on 3x5 cards or small notebooks that he tucked into his pockets. These pocket-sized, soft-cover journals are perfect for the list maker and note-taker in your life who still likes the old-fashioned paper and pencil method of doing both. They’re available with ruled or plain paper and a choice of cover colors.

Apple AirTag

Key rings are one of those things that are perennially useful yet you rarely think to buy for yourself. These leather and stainless-steel key rings fit snugly over an Apple AirTag giving you a secure place for your keys as well as the insurance you’ll always be able to find them.

Car Cup Phone Holder


This is one of the actual stocking gifts my dad gave me last year – despite the fact that I live in New York City and do not own a car. At first, I thought I would have absolutely no use for it until I remembered that I do occasionally drive a rental car and usually it’s for a trip that involves following directions. I’d been doing the thing where I balance my phone against the button council in front of the gear shift and hope it doesn’t slide off.

This brilliant little gadget provides a secure place to keep my phone no matter what car I happen to be in. It has interchangeable base cups so you can find the perfect snug fit for any cup holder. Once again, something I would never have thought to buy for myself but has ended up being quite useful. Go dad!

General Tools Revolving Punch Pliers

No stocking is complete without at least one hand tool – at least in my family. If you have a crafter on your list, they’ll love this revolving hole punch from General Tools. There are six different-sized hole punches that easily pierce through leather, rubber, fabric, and plastic. Perfect for leather work, grommet settings, and more.

Grilling Utensils with LED light

For your favorite outdoor chef, this 6-in-1 lighted grill tool makes a wonderful stocking stuffer. Equipped with a spatula, adjustable tongs, knife blade, scraper, bottle opener, and LED flashlight, these will make cooking in even the most rustic outdoor settings easy and efficient.

A Lifestraw

Keeping with the adventure and travel themes, this personal Lifestraw allows you to drink straight from any river, lake, or stream. The microfilter protects you from 99.99% of harmful bacteria and parasites. It can also be attached to water bottles and standard gravity hoses via the removable threaded bottom cap.

Wooden Utensil Travel Set

This wooden utensil travel set is perfect for eating meals while traveling or at work or school while cutting out the need to use plastic, takeout utensils. Includes a knife, fork, spoon, dessert fork, mini spoon, set of chopsticks, drinking straw, and straw cleaner. Plus there's a spoon and chopstick rest all wrapped in a convenient, cotton-carrying case.

Deck of Cards

During my childhood, my family played a lot of card games including rummy, euchre, hearts, cribbage, and poker. No holiday gathering passed without the deck of cards coming out. When we’d go to my grandparents’ house along with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, there’d often be three to four different games going on at once. These classic cards from Bicycle come in an 1885 anniversary box – perfect for inspiring a non-digital friend or to start a family holiday tradition.

NCAA Team Logo Mittens

My only clear memory of the Ohio State football games my dad used to take us to is that there was always one or two where the weather was inordinately cold. Chances are, you too have a college football fan on your list; maybe even one that drags you to a game in freezing temperatures and then complains about how cold their hands are. These cozy knit mittens adorned with the NCAA team logo of your choice are perfect for sitting in cold bleachers while showing your team spirit

NCAA Team Crew Socks

A person can never have too many pairs of socks. In keeping with the NCAA theme, consider these team socks for your favorite football fan. I personally love the 2-stripe retro look reminiscent of the tube socks I wore as a kid.

Stocking stuffer gifts don’t have to be exciting but, with a little thought (and shopping at your local hardware store), they can always be useful.