50 Problem Solving Presents Under $50: The Great Canadian Gift Guide
Tired of giving gifts that end up collecting dust on the shelf? These thoroughly practical presents are guaranteed to please everyone on your holiday shopping list.
The problem: She’s having trouble breaking up with single-use plastics.
The solution: Zoku reusable pocket straw, $13, Cocktail Emporium
They should really brand this brilliant innovation as “the last straw,” as it truly is the only one she’ll use for the rest of her life. Crafted in lightweight, dishwasher-safe stainless steel, this infinitely reusable straw telescopes for easy storage and transport in a compact carrying case. If those benefits weren’t enough, they’ve even thought to build-in a comfy silicone tip (it’s BPA- and phthalate-free, natch) to give it that added edge over the competition.
The problem: She’s always wanted to learn the basics of American Sign Language, but didn’t know where to start.
The solution: Tree Fort Toys sign language alphabet flash cards, $28, Etsy
She’ll know her ABCs in no time with the help of these beautifully designed discs, which feature the letters of the alphabet on one side, and the corresponding ASL sign on the other. Laser-engraved onto birch and made in Victoria, B.C., this great Canadian gift is as pretty as it is practical.
The problem: He can never make it through the holidays without picking up a nasty cold.
The solution: Cold Survival tea collection, $15, DavidsTea
There may not be a cure for the common cold, but DavidsTea has come up with a tasty way of treating the symptoms. In this 20-sachet set, he’ll find blends specifically designed to soothe everything from sore throats to headaches.
Check out the health benefits of drinking tea every day.
The problem: He hates going to the cinema, but misses the big screen experience.
The solution: Portable mini-LED smartphone projector, $32, eBay Canada
Bring the big screen home for the price of two movie tickets! This surprisingly affordable smartphone projector turns any wall or white bedsheet into his own personal movie theatre. (Popcorn not included.)
The problem: Her German Shepherd pup gets his second wind in the wee hours.
The solution: Nitey Leash, $30, PetSmart
This LED-illuminated leash is the perfect accessory for safe night time walks, increasing her—and her four-legged friend’s—visibility on darkened streets and sidewalks.
Get to know the most common household health risks for pets.
The problem: He fancies himself the next Bear Grylls, but he could get lost in his own backyard.
The solution: Wild & Wolf Survival of the Fittest survival kit, $25, Drake General Store
Compass? Check. Fire starter? Check. Penknife, tweezers, wire saw… If using it could earn you a Boy Scout badge, it’s more than likely present and correct in this eminently giftable stocking stuffer.
The problem: As any woman can attest, it’s nearly impossible to find a lip liner to match a lipstick.
The solution: Laura Mercier Lip Artiste Lip Duet, $37, Hudson’s Bay
This pairing of long-wear lip liner and complementary lipstick ensures a perfectly coordinated pout every time. The only decision left to make is choosing from three chic shades—red (shown here), coral or nude.
The problem: She’s hosting a New Year’s Eve bash, but doesn’t know how to fill that awkward gap between dinner and the midnight countdown.
The solution: Ridley’s Game Room Sing It Back card game, $13, Chapters Indigo
This after-dinner card game will have every guest channelling their inner karaoke star. It’s less structured than a board game—and far more likely to bring on the laughs. Speaking of which, don’t miss these hilarious holiday jokes.
The problem: Charging cords never seem to last as long as the devices they’re meant to charge.
The solution: General Supply Good + Co. charging cable, $30, Staples Canada
Wrapped in canvas for extra durability, the look of this stylish spare was conceived by none other than Canadian design legend, Joe Mimran. In a further nod to functionality, he’s thrown in a handsome leather tie to prevent tangles.
Find out how to charge your phone as quickly as possible.
The problem: Overzealous sidewalk salters have turned his black brogues white.
The solution: Shoe polishing kit, $8, Marshalls
A regular brush and polish will ensure he’s putting his best foot forward—in every type of weather.
Next, find out how to get rid of salt stains in your car!
The problem: What to do with the rest of the sherry after Aunt Bea has had her thimbleful on Christmas Eve?
The solution: The Mini Bar: 100 Essential Cocktail Recipes, $27, Cocktail Emporium
It turns out sherry’s more versatile than you thought. The oft-maligned fortified wine gets an entire volume in this collection of cocktail recipes designed to put even the dustiest bottle on your bar cart to good use.
The problem: Your folks take great pride in their backyard bird feeder, but it’s placed too far from the house to positively ID all of their winged visitors.
The solution: Tasco 10×25 binoculars, $25, Canadian Tire
A pair of lightweight compact binoculars will help bring those feathered friends into focus. Delivering 10x magnification, your parents will have no problem distinguishing their jays from their juncos. They’ll also want to check out this collection of great Canadian bird stories.
The problem: His new beard is less “Chris Hemsworth” than it is “Canada’s most wanted.”
The solution: Eucalyptus, Lime and Pine Scotch Needle beard oil and beard balm set, $40, Always Bearded
This new combo pack from Toronto’s own Always Bearded tames unruly face fuzz in a two-step process. The beard oil serves as a leave-in conditioner, while the balm locks in moisture, boosts volume and keeps stray whiskers under control. In refreshing eucalyptus, lime and pine scotch needle essential oils, this daily addition to his grooming regimen is the next best thing to his own personal barber.
The problem: Her son’s just gone vegan, and she’s stumped on what to serve at the festive feast.
The solution: Happy Vegan Christmas by Karoline Jonsson (Rizzoli, 2019), $30, Chapters Indigo
Yes, even the traditional Christmas dinner can cater to those on a plant-based diet—without even sacrificing the flavours of the season. Roasted nuts, bright citrus and warm, spicy cloves take starring roles in these Scandinavian holiday recipes that are sure to delight even the die-hard meat-eaters at the table.
The problem: She loves her gourmet brew, and the office coffeemaker just won’t do.
The solution: Kikkerland Pour-Over Coffee set (includes coffee dripper, spoon and three wire clips), $24, Well.ca
This collapsible stainless steel coffee dripper transforms an old mug into a DIY caffeination station. Simply fill the basket with beans, and pour boiling water overtop for an absolutely effortless cup of joe.
Speaking of DIY, don’t miss these clever uses for coffee cans all around the house.
The problem: Arthritis has made fresh-ground pepper a thing of the past.
The solution: Dash electric salt and pepper mill, $35, Chapters Indigo
A battery-powered mill takes the elbow grease out of grinding salt or pepper. The best part? It leaves you with a free hand to stir while you season!
Check out more clever kitchen hacks that will save you time, money and effort.
The problem: His sock drawer is a sea of mis-matched sports socks.
The solution: Work Week five-pack socks, $30, Drake General Store
Not only will this set of punchy patterned socks take his suit game to the next level, it also takes the guesswork out of pulling the matching pair from the dryer.
Don’t miss fashion guru Carson Kressley’s guide to dressing with confidence at any age.
The problem: Old Man Winter has taken a serious toll on her skin.
The solution: Weleda On-the-Go Winter Essentials kit, $10, Well.ca
In the battle against dry skin, these are the big guns—albeit in a size that’s perfect for toting around in her purse. This mega-moisturizing gift pack includes Weleda’s legendary Skin Food cream and a lip butter—both indispensable additions to her winter skin care arsenal.
The problem: He thinks he’s “going green” simply by brown-bagging his plastic-wrapped lunch.
The solution: La P’tite Trousse reusable snack bag, $12, Etsy
Quebec artisan Stéphanie Racette’s cotton sandwich bags feature snap enclosures and a food safe waterproof lining for easy washing and maintenance. With her penchant for punchy prints, zero waste never looked so good.
These frightening facts will make you stop using plastic.
The problem: He’s constantly squinting through filthy specs.
The solution: Peeps eyeglass cleaners, $20 each, Lee Valley
This compact eyeglass cleaning kit may not restore his vision to 20/20, but it can certainly help him see more clearly. The perfectly portable design incorporates a goat-bristle brush to sweep away particles and soft pads on tweezer-like arms to clean both sides of the lens at once.
Find out more everyday items you don’t wash nearly enough.
The problem: She can’t put down her latest page-turner, but you need your beauty sleep.
The solution: Kikkerland clothespin clip light, $9, Amazon
Switch off the bedroom light, and reach for this cleverly-designed reading light. Inspired by a good old-fashioned clothespin, she can clip it directly to the headboard behind her—or even better, to the book itself. (Bonus: It’s wireless!)
Want to take this gift to the next level? Package it with one of these books that can help with New Year’s resolutions.
The problem: In Vancouver, it rains on average 21 days out of every December.
The solution: Belami Knirps Reversible stick umbrella, $35, CAA
An umbrella makes a practical present no matter where you happen to call home, but this innovative model’s upside-down design makes it particularly giftable. Unlike conventional brollies, it folds inward, allowing you to get in and out of cars without getting wet, and eliminating splashes and drips during opening and closing. The best part? It serves as its own umbrella stand while it dries. Brilliant!
The problem: His taste in spirits isn’t exactly what you’d call “top shelf.”
The solution: Glass decanter, $20, HomeSense
Any liquor can look like a million bucks after it’s been decanted into a gorgeous vessel.
The problem: He can never seem to fit all of his gear into a single carry-on suitcase.
The solution: AmazonBasics four-piece packing cube set, $32, Amazon
Ask anyone who’s ever avoided checked bag fees what their secret is, and they’ll respond with two words: “Packing cubes.” Essentially drawer-dividers for luggage, packing cubes make the most of every square inch of a suitcase, keeping rolled clothing and all of your carry-on essentials neatly organized and tightly compressed. Putting it simply, they’ll revolutionize the way he packs—and save him from ever having to wait at the luggage carousel again.
Here’s what you should always keep in your carry-on so you’re ready for anything!
The problem: Your four-legged friend tends to tear his Christmas toys to shreds before Boxing Day.
The solution: OMG Surprise pet toy, $18, PetSmart
This startled-looking stuffie may look run-of-the-mill, but it’s actually the Russian nesting doll of chew toys. Once Rover has ripped apart the soft exterior and shredded the stuffing, he’ll discover a second toy (with a much longer life expectancy) lurking inside.
The problem: Condo rules forbid her from having a fresh-cut Christmas tree.
The solution: Thymes Frasier Fir aromatic candle, $35, Chapters Indigo
Even if she’s stuck with an everlasting tree, she can at least enjoy the scent of the real deal courtesy of a luxe fragranced candle. Once she pops the flaming yule log on the flatscreen TV, her urban winter wonderland will be complete!
Are you on the market for a fresh-cut fir? Here’s the best time to buy a Christmas tree in Canada.
The problem: He’s forever losing his wallet. And his phone. And…
The solution: Tile Slim wallet finder, $40, Amazon
As thin as two credit cards, the discreet Tile Slim tracking device easily slides into a wallet. The next time his wallet goes for a walk, he can simply activate the relevant app on his smartphone and locate it via GPS. Even cooler? The device works the other way around, too: Double pressing the button on the Tile Slim will make his phone ring—even when it’s on silent!
Check out the things you should never post on social media during the holidays.
Photo: Lee Valley
The problem: You wince every time you watch her slice into a carrot.
The solution: Chop-Safe Finger Guard, $10, Lee Valley
If you haven’t been able to hone her cutting skills, you can still save her fingers with this stainless steel guard. The clever design includes a split ring on the back which slips over the middle finger so she can hold the produce securely in place as she slices.
Planning a cookie exchange? These brilliant Christmas baking hacks could come in handy!
The problem: His late-night commutes are keeping you up with worry.
The solution: AlertMe anti-fatigue alert device, $21, Amazon
Although this electronic device is about the same size and shape as an ordinary bluetooth earpiece, the resemblance ends there. Designed specifically to prevent accidents caused by falling asleep behind the wheel, it detects signs of fatigue and drowsiness, then emits an alarm to instantly wake the driver. It’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep, of course, but if it reduces the risk of momentarily drifting off to sleep—and into oncoming traffic—it’s still $21 well spent.
Check out more car gadgets that make driving safer.
The problem: Your best friend has been suffering from a bout of insomnia.
The solution: Sleepy Little Box of Slumbers shower gel and body lotion set, $18, Lush
Science has proven that a warm shower before bed can help promote sleep. Combine that soothing shower with the calming fragrances of lavender and tonka, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a deep and dreamless sleep. (You can also share this expert advice on how to get a better night’s sleep.)
The problem: He’s tired of crawling under the Christmas tree to unplug the lights every night.
The solution: Touch control for Christmas lights, $28, Lee Valley
What looks like an ordinary brass Christmas tree ornament is actually a touch-sensitized control that will turn up to 1,200 mini-lights on or off with the tap of a finger. Once it’s wired-in to his mini-light strands and hung on the tree at a convenient height, he won’t have to fuss with another cord until Christmas is over.
Photo: Chapters Indigo
The problem: Your dad has recently downsized and is missing his backyard herb garden.
The solution: Modern Sprouts gardening jar, $25, Chapters Indigo
If he’s got a windowsill, he’s got all the room he needs for this DIY herb growing kit. Including certified organic seeds and a vintage-inspired mason jar with a built-in hydroponic system, he’ll be garnishing his meals with home-grown basil in no time. Check out more inspired indoor gardening ideas.
The problem: Your mom took a nasty tumble on the ice last year, and it’s made her think twice about getting out and about this winter.
The solution: Slip-On Snow Traction ice cleats, $11, Walmart
Considering falls are the leading cause of injury to seniors, the gift of added grip is a worthy one. These steel-studded rubber ice cleats are designed to slip over the tread of her winter boots for serious traction on slippery sidewalks.
The problem: Her pooch has a penchant for mud puddles.
The solution: Kurgo Travel Shower, $14, Amazon
Instead of trying to clean her four-legged friend indoors (and creating an even bigger mess), she can rinse filthy fur on the spot with this handy travel shower attachment. Simply fill up an old soda bottle with water, tighten the PVC- and BPA-free cap onto the bottle neck, then tip and squeeze. She’ll have a squeaky-clean canine before she even leaves the dog park!
The problem: He’s taking his life into his hands every time he reaches into the knife drawer.
The solution: AmazonBasics 12-piece coloured knife set, $22, Amazon
Each knife in this brilliantly-hued set comes with its own blade guard—colour-coordinated, of course—to ensure safe storage and to help maintain a razor-sharp cutting edge. The other big perk? With each knife a different colour, there’s less risk of cross-contamination during food preparation.
Speaking of cross-contamination, here’s why you should never wash chicken before cooking it.
The problem: His every attempt at home improvement ends with a black fingernail.
The solution: ThumBits driver bit holder, $9, Lee Valley
What this silicone thumb ring lacks in style, it more than makes up for in service. Fitted with a rare-earth magnet, it can hold a nail in place while he starts it, reducing the risk of a crushed finger. What’s more, it carries up to three standard 1/4″ driver bits—far better than clenching them in his teeth or rooting around in his pockets while he’s got a power drill in hand. You might also suggest he checks out these brilliant home improvement hacks.
The problem: Her smartphone is constantly running on fumes.
The solution: Nordmarke wireless charger, $20, IKEA Canada
A wireless charger for her office will keep her battery topped-up all day long (providing her phone supports wireless charging, of course). Placing the phone on the charging pad not only reduces wear and tear on her phone’s original charging cable, but she can also use it on a variety of her smart devices (phone, smartwatch, tablet, etc.) without fussing around for each individual cord. Don’t miss these other highlights from the latest IKEA catalogue!
The problem: They have a two-car garage—and three cars.
The solution: Rain-X windshield de-icer, $6, NAPA Canada
Nothing’s going to beat a good old fashioned snow brush, but the next time they get dumped on, this de-icer can take some of the elbow grease out of unearthing their ride. Melting ice, frost and light snow on contact, it’s ideal for windshields, wiper blades, side mirrors and headlights, making quick work of one of winter’s chilliest chores. They’ll also want to check out this genius hack to keep car windows from fogging up.
The problem: As new parents, your friends are constantly fishing loose baby bottle bits from the bottom of their dishwasher.
The solution: Dishwasher basket, $7, Lee Valley
File this dishwasher basket under, “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” It’s the perfect way to secure smaller items in the dishwasher, reducing the risk of damage from being tossed around inside the machine. (Psst—this is the correct way to organize plates in your dishwasher.)
The problem: He tossed his old BBQ brush after he learned the metal bristles pose a serious health risk.
The solution: Master Chef Onion Smart grill brush, $9, Canadian Tire
What could be safer—and more savoury—than repurposing an onion as a grill brush? All he’ll need is this heat-resistant grip: fitted with prongs on its underside, it keeps a peeled onion in place while he scrubs and seasons his grill to perfection.
Is your barbecue in business year-round? These grilling tricks from professional chefs will come in handy!
The problem: She spends half of her sweat sesh wrestling with the knots in her earbuds.
The solution: Earbuds storage case, $12, Lee Valley
This tangle-proof earbuds storage case is the workout accessory she didn’t know she needed. Made of flexible silicone, it has a slotted opening to hold the earbuds in place, and flips inside out to reveal a spool that you can wind the cords around. Flip the case back into the closed position and the cords are neatly contained, unwinding easily from the spool when you pull your earbuds out again.
Need a new playlist for the festive season? These are the best Christmas songs—ranked!
The problem: He’s added a Kenyan safari to his 2020 travel plans, and there’s a chance fresh water will be in short supply.
The solution: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, $26, Amazon
A best-seller on Amazon, LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is the perfect companion for camping, backpacking or any form of travel where you’re unsure about the safety of your water supply. (These are the most common travel illnesses—and how to avoid them.) The act of sipping water through the straw instantly filters out contaminants, including 99.9999 per cent of waterborne bacteria such as E. coli and 99.9 per cent of waterborne protozoan parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. As a worthy bonus, for every LifeStraw product sold, one child in a developing country will receive clean water for the duration of a school year. – Andrea Karr
The problem: He’s planning for a Paleo diet in the New Year, but is worried he’ll cave to his cravings for pasta.
The solution: Microplane spiral cutter, $21, Amazon
Spiral-cut carrot is the perfect low-carb substitute for spaghetti, and it’s ready in an instant with the help of this genius kitchen gadget. Simply insert the carrot (zucchini works well too!) into one of the spiral cutter’s two barrels, then apply pressure and twist as you would with a pencil sharpener. With a few flicks of the wrist, he’ll have a nutritious—not to mention gluten-free—alternative to noodles.
The problem: His “going-out bag” is the same size as most people’s checked luggage.
The solution: Herschel Charlie camo card wallet, $25, Hudson’s Bay
A slimmed-down card wallet can be just as stylish as his big bag, but far more practical for a night on the town. Once he pares his cards down to the bare essentials and slips this into his back pocket, his only regret will be not doing this sooner.
The problem: He’s still sore about that time he had to surrender his full-size shampoo bottle at the airport security checkpoint.
The solution: Tracker 100mL leak-proof soft travel bottles, $20 (pair), Bentley
Exercise portion control with carry-on compliant travel bottles. Not only do they afford him the luxury of travelling with his favourite toiletries (you can never be sure what they’re stocking in the hotel), but he’ll be saving oodles of space in his suitcase, to boot. Here are more tips to help you get through the airport faster.
The problem: Her healthy eating goals are going off the rails because she doesn’t have time for meal prep.
The solution: Hamilton Beach egg cooker, $22, Amazon
There are few foods more versatile than eggs, and there’s no better way to prep them in bulk than with this cost-conscious egg cooker. Whether she takes them hard-boiled, medium, soft or poached; diced in a salad or in the shell a mid-day snack, she’ll be able to whip up as many as seven at a time and all in under eight minutes flat.
Find out why you need to stop throwing away eggshells.
The problem: You’re convinced your son hasn’t replaced his razor blade in at least six months.
The solution: Mach3 razor subscription (one shipment of four blade refills every four months for one year), $39, Gillette on Demand
He’ll be more likely to keep that neck clean-shaven with a steady supply of razors delivered straight to his doorstep. A shave club subscription service like Gillette on Demand—which allows you to customize the quantity and frequency of each delivery—is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
The problem: You live with a do-it-yourselfer who’s constantly calling you into the garage to help work the tape measure.
The solution: Benchmark 32’ laser measure, $30, Home Hardware
Swap the standard tape measure for this compact laser model, and he’ll be able to take any measurement solo. With the click of a button, this time-saving marvel instantly calculates distance in Imperial and metric.
No plans for December 25th? Consider these meaningful Christmas Day activities.
The problem: She never seems to have time for her knitting anymore.
The solution: Jésabelle B. knitting bag, $30, Etsy
Whether she’s commuting on the train or waiting in line at the bank, this thoughtful gift turns wasted time into a knitting opportunity. With the yarn tucked safely inside the bag and the handle looped over her wrist, both hands remain free to pick and purl to her heart’s content.
Don’t miss our roundup of the best Christmas movies of all time.
The problem: You don’t want your pooch cooped up in a cage for the entire road trip, but she can’t run free, either.
The solution: Kurgo Auto ZipLine, $36, PetSmart
This cleverly-designed harness system gives her room to roam, while keeping her restrained in the rear seat. The bonus, apart from a distraction-free drive for her fur-parent upfront? She can still hang her head out of *both* side windows.
Inspired by our great Canadian gift guide? Find out the best places to spend Christmas in Canada.