40 Problem Solving Presents Under $40: 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 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: Sing It Back and Classic Charades after dinner card games, $10 (set of two), Marshalls
These after-dinner card games will have every guest channelling their inner karaoke king and drama queen. They’re less structured than a board game—and far more likely to bring on the laughs.
Got hosting anxiety? Here are quick fixes for every type of holiday party mishap.
The problem: Your folks take great pride in their backyard birdfeeder, 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: He figured he’d grow a beard because it was low-maintenance, but now he’s suffering from the dreaded “beardruff.” (That’s “beard dandruff”—and yes, it really is a thing.)
The solution: Eucalyptus, lime and distilled pine scotch beard cream, $25, Always Bearded
Meet Beard Cream, a non-greasy leave-in conditioning cream with a matte finish. The Canadian-made formula moisturizes the skin and the hair from the inside out, in turn softening and repairing damaged beard hair while fighting dry flaky skin. Don’t miss these other great Canadian gift ideas.
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), $20, Staples Canada
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 ways to use coffee cans all around the house.
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.
The problem: She can’t put down her latest page-turner, but you need your beauty sleep.
The solution: Clothespin clip light, $8, Kikkerland
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. (Despite this, it’s still one of the best places to spend Christmas in Canada.)
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: He can never seem to fit all of his gear into a single carry-on suitcase.
The solution: AmazonBasics four-piece packing cube set, $30, 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.
The problem: Condo rules forbid her from having a fresh-cut Christmas tree.
The solution: Snowy Pine and Balsam Fir poured fragranced candle, $20, 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!
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, $18, 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 $18 well spent.
These are the 15 winter driving rules every car owner should know.
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, $15, 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: She’s justifiably proud of her antiques—but her home is beginning to look like an episode of Hoarders.
The solution: Sammanhang display stand, $25, IKEA Canada
A handsome display stand can help bring order to a chaotic collection. Showcasing just a handful of favourite pieces—and putting the rest into storage—elevates everyday items into objets d’art. Don’t miss these other decorating mistakes that make a house look terrible.
The problem: Your fur baby is sensitive to over-salted sidewalks.
The solution: Good Girl Good Boy healing paw balm, $23, (natural ear cleaner, $20; organic soap, $15), One of a Kind
Handmade with Canadian hemp oil and Kokum butter and designed specifically for dogs (sorry, Cleo!), this moisturizing balm can help soothe irritated paws.
We all love to spoil our furry friends, but this city has just been named the pet pampering capital of Canada!
The problem: Your dad has recently downsized and is missing his backyard herb garden.
The solution: Indigo Design Studio Herbs of the Mediterranean growing kit, $22, 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 that are guaranteed to germinate, clay pellets, and a waterproof galvanized metal planter, he’ll be garnishing his meals with home-grown rosemary, sage and chives 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, $12, Petsmart
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: She agonizes over where to hide the valuables when she goes on holiday.
The solution: Big jewelry book, $25, Kikkerland
What’s safer than a cleverly disguised jewelry box that essentially disappears on a bookcase?
Here’s how real life FBI agents protect their homes throughout the year.
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, $21, 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 tackles these clever home improvement ideas under $200.
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: Your teenager spends longer fishing the drawstring out of his hoodie than he does actually doing his laundry.
The solution: Easy Threader drawstring replacement tool, $5, Lee Valley
This flexible threader has a loop at the end of a slender, flexible tail that captures the drawstring, while the thicker rigid end gives you something to hold onto as you pass it through the channel in the hoodie. (Psst—it’s also great for swim trunks!)
The problem: They have a two-car garage—and three cars.
The solution: Rain-X windshield de-icer, $5, NAPA Canada
Nothing’s going to beat a good old fashioned snowbrush, 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 these five effective ways to de-ice a driveway.
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? Here are 21 great grilling recipes to try this winter.
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. (By the way, this is the absolute best anti-aging workout, according to science.)
The problem: She’s always asking to borrow your screwdriver. And your box cutters. And your wrench…
The solution: Multi-tool keychain, $12, Lee Valley
How about gifting her all three of those in one hard-working holiday keychain? This versatile multi-tool packs an astonishing number of functions (including a #1 Philips screwdriver, safety cutter blade, 3/16″, 1/4″ and 5/16″ hex wrenches, Imperial and metric ruler, and bottle opener) into a single stocking stuffer. Pretty impressive for a present that only sets you back the price of a movie ticket!
Got an auto enthusiast on your holiday shopping list? Check out the 20 tools no home mechanic should be without.
The problem: She scorched her best blouse with a shady hotel iron on her last business trip.
The solution: Steamfast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron, $39, Amazon
This pint-sized portable steam iron will quickly become as essential as her passport. (Here are more must-have travel accessories for the frequent flyer.) Although tiny (the non-stick press plate is about the size of your palm), it’s surprisingly powerful, heating up in just 15 seconds to effortlessly erase those pesky wrinkles from tightly-packed garments. The iron comes with its own travel bag and is equipped with dual voltage (120V and 240V) for usage in most countries. —Andrea Karr
The problem: The power drill you gave him last Christmas still hasn’t come out of its packaging.
The solution: Drillbrush three-piece power scrubber cleaning kit, $18, Amazon
Instead of waiting for a heavy-duty DIY project to come along, press his power drill into service as a high-powered scrub brush. Designed for use with a typical power drill, the gentle nylon brushes make quick work of grimy grout and other tough-to-clean surfaces in your bathroom (think tubs, tiles and even shower door tracks). It may not completely take the bore out of this particular chore, but it sure comes close.
Here are more clever cleaning shortcuts lazy people will appreciate.
The problem: He’s added a Kenyan safari to his 2019 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: You’ve been asked to tend to your pal’s houseplants when she heads home for the holidays.
The solution: Adjustable-Flow Drip Spike, $11, Lee Valley
Sneak a drip spike into her stocking: It’s a simple way to keep plants consistently watered for up to two weeks at a time. Her potted palm will be happy, and you’ll be off the hook!
Looking to add some greenery to your own holiday decor? Here are eight festive flowers to buy instead of poinsettias this Christmas.
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, $19, 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: Her “going-out purse” is the same size as most people’s checked luggage.
The solution: Love & Lore card purse, $16, Chapters Indigo
A slimmed-down card purse can be just as pretty as her big bag, but far more practical for a night on the town. Once she pares her cards down to the bare essentials and slips this into her back pocket, her 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: Your friends installed a pool at the tail end of summer—which means the backyard is now a “no-glass zone.”
The solution: Acrylic wine glasses, $4 each, HomeSense
Acrylic wine glasses are more durable than the real deal, but no less elegant. What’s more, they’re a gift that will ensure you’re invited to the first pool party of the season.
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, $34, 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. (Might we suggest some of them be used to make Chef Lynn Crawford’s lobster deviled eggs?)
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 TK blades every three 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.
The problem: Her golden retriever gets his second wind in the wee hours.
The solution: Beaver Canoe bungee leash, $25, Petsmart
This reflective leash is the perfect accessory for safe night time walks, increasing her—and her four-legged friend’s—visibility on darkened streets and sidewalks.
Don’t miss these other great Canadian gift ideas!