You don't have to spend hundreds to get a gift he'll love. Here are 20 original, affordable ideas.
He has a million ties. And while you'd love to get him an iPad, you can't cough up that kind of cash. Here, some less-expected gifts (for Christmas, Hanukkah or anytime) that will wow him—for budgets big and small.
1. Kinect for Xbox is the gift for gamers this year. And before you go groaning about getting him another video game, consider this: You may like this one, too. Think of it as the Wii for Xbox. Kinect is full-body gaming, with special technology that reacts to a player's body and mirrors it onscreen (no buttons required). Plus it has voice capability, meaning that it really is possible to control the TV by talking to it. Xbox live has access to all his favorite sports on ESPN, and all your favorite movies and music through Zune and Last.fm. Just remember: It's his gift, not yours. (kinect-xbox.net, $149.99)
2. Tunebug Shake. This crazy gadget connects to your man's phone or MP3 player to create a surround sound experience, sans headphones. It's touch-sensitive and mounts to most types of helmets, meaning that if he's biking or snowboarding, he can still have his tunes without dangerously cutting himself off from the world via headphones. And it can hook up to his devices via Bluetooth, eliminating the need for any wires at all. Note: If your guy does not participate in activities that require helmets but still loves his music, the Tunebug Vibe is a similar device that works on flat surfaces, so he can take his music wherever he goes. (tunebug.com, Shake $99.99, Vibe $69.99)
3. Cooper Cooler Beer Chiller. He's dying for a cool beer and there are none in the fridge. Not to worry if you've gifted him the Cooper Cooler Beer Chiller. All it takes is a little water, ice and electricity and his bottle of beer will go from room temp to ice cold in just six minutes, less for a can. Need to chill wine in a hurry? It'll take three and a half minutes to get a bottle to the low 50s. Crisis averted. (bedbathandbeyond.com, $59.99)
4. Custom, Artsy Movie Poster. Let's face it: You're sick of the dude in the "COLLEGE" sweater grinning at you from your honey's wall but, for some reason, he can't give up his bachelor pad decor. Meet your new best friend, Claudia Varosio, who'll help you ease your man into grown-up art. Varosio can turn an iconic movie scene into a unique, artistic movie poster. And don't fret: if there's nothing on Varosio's site that seems right for him, feel free to suggest his favorite movie and a couple of scenes and Claudia will take a stab. (etsy.com, $18)
5. Redi-Check Remote Control Meat Thermometer. He takes his meat-cooking seriously, and this serious meat thermometer will further hone his skills. After he puts the meat in the oven or on the grill, a transmitter will tell him its internal temperature, alerting him whenever it changes by one-half a degree. He'll have perfect meat every time and, even if he hasn't let you near it, you can take the credit (just not in front of him). (maverickhousewares.com, $49.99)
6. Rosetta Stone TOTALe. Few things top the gift of knowledge. Rosetta Stone's newest offering helps you grasp any new language quickly and effectively. And what was an incredible program is even more so now that he can download lessons onto his smart phone and participate in conversations and games with other language learners, as well as with native speakers. Choose your language carefully: after he's mastered the vocabulary, he might just be inspired to take you on a trip to say thanks. (rosettastone.com, $249)
7. Perpetual Calendar. It looks like an elegant geometric sculpture, but it's actually a calendar—one that can be used year after year by moving the magnetic balls that mark the day and month. It's a great conversation piece, and a good idea for a gadget-lover or the man who has everything. The calendar can sit on a desk or be mounted on the wall, and your man will never again need to ask you the date. (uncommongoods.com, $40)
8. Adult Spin The Bottle Game. This should come as no surprise, but an impromptu poll turned up one resounding winner on every man's wish list. You guessed it: sex. Why not indulge this wish—but put a different spin on it. JimmyJane's "Spin Me - Spin the Bottle" game is easy: spin, select a set of directions from inside the bottle, read and obey. The instructions could be as simple as a kiss or. . . Let's just say sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty to get on his nice list. (shopisabella.com, $35)
9. WeWOOD Watch. It's manly. It's artistic. It's sustainable. But most of all, this ridiculousy cool watch made from 100 percent wood is unique. And it'll make the both of you feel good that its purchase contributed to the planting of a tree. (we-wood.us, $119)
10. DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book. You don't have to understand his obsession with comic books to understand that he'll love the DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book. Inside are 100 of the best comic book covers from DC's archives, including Batman #1, Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing. Each cover comes with commentary and is perforated in case he's in need of new wall art. (chroniclebooks.com, $40)
11. Wine Aerator. Got a wine lover in your life? He needs this wine aerator. It's beautiful to look at, and it helps the wine breathe instantly, meaning that you don't have to wait for the flavors to open up. With the first sip, he'll be expounding on the hints of cherry, and that smooth finish. (vinturi.com, $39.95 or $49.95 for the travel version)
12. The Yale Anthology Of Rap. Whether he's a deep thinking poet who can rap with the best of them, an awkward English major who wishes he knew something about hip-hop or somewhere in between, there's finally a perfect gift for his eccentricities: The Yale Anthology of Rap. Its 900+ pages are enlightening and amusing for obsessed fans and new initiates alike. The book celebrates rap as both an art form and a harbinger of our social culture. (yalepress.yale.edu, $35)
13. MiCorder. Got a music junkie on your hands? The MiCorder will allow him to convert pretty much anything he wants into an MP3 file. Turntables, radio, CDs, 9-Tracks, you name it, the MiCorder will record it in high quality audio and allow him to transfer it to his computer or MP3 player. It even has a microphone, so he can carry around a recording of your voice. (olenstechnology.com, $79.99)
14. Boom Boom Cards. Here's something fun (and nice) you can do together. Each of the 26 cards in this Boom Boom Card deck is a suggested act of kindness. You perform an act, and then you pass the card along to someone else. But before passing along those cards, you have to register the deck. That way, you can log your acts and then watch as they are continued when the cards are passed along. It's a fun way to bond with your honey while making the world just a little bit better. (boomboomcards.com, $9.99)
15. Creminelli Salami Trio Gift Box. For the man who loves his salami (and we don't mean that in a dirty way), the Creminelli Salami Trio Gift Box may just be a giant hunk of heaven. The three artisan salamis from Italian genius Cristiano Creminelli are nothing short of decadent. Think black truffles, robust Barolo and tangy juniper berries, all in perfectly cured meat. If you're lucky, maybe he'll let you have a taste, too. (deandeluca.com, $75)
16. Freitag Bag. Call it a man-purse or a messenger, or even a laptop bag, but one thing is certain of a bag from Freitag: It will not threaten his masculinity. Each bag from this smart Swiss company is made from reclaimed "road materials" (think truck tarpaulins, seat belts and recycled air bags), guaranteeing not only that each bag is totally tough, but also that each is one-of-a-kind. Choose one of countless designs from their online shop, or design a bag perfectly suited to him. Either way, he'll carry his man-bag with pride. (Hey, it's made of truck tarps, so it even smells manly.) (freitag.ch, varies, but bags are around $200)
17. The Elia Kazan Collection. He's seen every movie Scorsese ever made. He still calls you on having the nerve to get up for a drink during Taxi Driver—a year ago. Make up for that and future film gaffes by gifting your cinephile a special collection devoted to the great director Elia Kazan, the man who launched the careers of multiple Hollywood greats, including Marlon Brando, James Dean and Warren Beatty. In addition to classics like Gentleman's Agreement, On the Waterfront and East of Eden, this collection of 18 discs includes five never-before-released films and a documentary on Kazan’s life co-directed by none other than Scorsese himself. (amazon.com, $136.99)
18. An Incredible, Unusual Vacation. Maybe you can afford a weekend; maybe a month. However long you can get away for, some uninterrupted time with you is sure to top his gift list, especially if you tailor your getaway to what he likes. If he likes to surf or just likes the beach, consider the heaven that is Puerto Rico's Rincon, with its crazy waves for him and long stretches of sand for you. The chill but lovely Coconut Palms Inn opens right onto the beach, with rates starting at just $90 a night.
The sci-fi lover guy, the nature-loving dude or simply the man who loves an adventure would go nuts over a stay in a UFO Hotel in California's Mojave desert. No, you did not read that wrong. Located in Joshua Tree National Park, Integratron is not your run of the mill hotel: According to the website, it was originally designed as "a rejuvenation and time machine." Whoa. It's basically high class camping, but it's situated on a magnetic vortex, which gives it a special kind of energy. And it sleeps up to 50 people, so maybe you can get his buddies in on the game for a surreal weekend away. If Integratron sounds too new-agey for you, sleep at the nearby Spin and Margie's Desert Hideaway ($175 per night)—which is as quirky and adorable as it sounds—and do some hiking in the park, a gorgeous desert wonderland. Whichever vacation you decide upon, you're certain to win some cool points.
19. Tool Chest In Your Pocket. There's something about the all-in-one gadget that can tickle just about anyone. For ladies, it may be a purse with plenty of pockets; for guys, it's definitely tools. That's why this device is sure to become his new favorite toy. It's sleek but rugged, and compact, too, but boy does it pack a punch. Nestled into those heavy-duty pliers are two flathead screwdrivers, a saw, two different-sized knives, a bottle opener and several other gadgets. Expect Mr. Fix-it to have a lot more things to work on! (sundancecatalog.com, $28)
20. Snow Peak Titanium French Press. The perfect gift for the oxymoron man who lives to get dirty in the great outdoors, but is also a coffee snob. This three-cup titanium French press weighs only seven ounces and has a handle that folds into it for easy packing. Now he can take his gourmet coffee on the trail with him. Great for business travel, too. (rei.com, $52.95)