What I would buy my family for Xmas
My take on Xmas is to not buy gifts for anyone. More often than not people get you something that you didn’t really want, or if they did you then have to guess about the amount spent ahead of time to get them a proper gift to reciprocate. In other words it’s a big pain fraught with social gotchas if you don’t have a predetermined wish list for yourself and budget established between people.
That being said, when I do buy gifts for people I prefer to buy them something that they would use but wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves (or just haven’t gotten to yet). Think of it as buying someone their extravagancies for them when they cannot justify it to themselves.
With that in mind, I decided to make a list of what I would buy people in my family at different price points. This ranges from the completely practical to the totally insane and only reasonable if I was worth 9 figures.
$10 per household #
I don’t know about other families, but mine does not follow great security habits online. I know for a fact that not even half of my family uses 2-step verification with their Google accounts. Part of that is most of them are not willing to attempt it without me being there. The other part, though, is probably some worry about access to their Google account no matter what. This is where using a security key comes into play. That gets around having to explain the Google Authenticator app or needing to be at home or with your mobile phone able to receive SMS messages.
To placate the access worry, I would buy each household a Plug-up Security Key. They run about $7 at Amazon and each key can support multiple accounts, thus the one per household. And while I think I might still have to be there physically to get them to turn it on, it should be enough to get them to stop being scared about activating 2-step verification (in case anyone is curious, my typical sales pitch is that if you think of your Google account as a house that’s in a gated community, your password gets you passed the guard at the front gate but your security key acts as a physical key to the front door).
At $20 there is also the Yubico FIDO U2F Security Key which is a bit heftier and can go on a keychain. But for most people in my family who don’t travel extensively and only have one computer in the house the Plug-up should be enough.
$12 per adult #
Going along with the security theme, I think I’m probably the only one bothering with a unique password for every account (creating Oplop has definitely been worth it just for my own personal use, let alone all the other people who benefit from it). To get my family to break this habit I need to present them with a solution that is dead-simple to use and will make the temptation to reuse a password anywhere to miniscule such that just having my nagging voice in their head is enough to make them do something better than reuse a password.
To solve this problem I would buy each adult a LastPass premium subscription. LastPass specifically allows for gifting premium subscriptions, I’m sure because they realize people like me want to get their families to follow good practices.
Now in all honesty I don’t love LastPass, I just like it. There are some UX aspects to LastPass that I don’t love – e.g. wanting to handle all web intents on Android, having a little icon in nearly every form field – but since it works on all platforms including Chrome OS for adding passwords and I doubt I can convince my family to use Oplop, it seems to be my best bet for ease-of-use.
$40 per household #
Everyone in my family has a [Netflix}(https://netflix.com) account. They also all have broadband (basically; one household is on DSL). That means that they need a way to stream Netflix to their TV(s). For that need alone I would buy each household a Chromecast. Beyond Netflix, it also allows for renting movies and TV shows using Google Play Movies. And as a semi-selfish perk, since my wife and I buy digital only now on Google Play Movies, it means that if there is a movie we want to watch with family while visiting we can do so without bringing any disc with us.
$350 per household #
At not quite 10x more expensive as the price point before, the doors suddenly open to several possibilities.
If a new laptop is in order, a new Chromebook would be given. If you look at the current models recommended by The Wirecutter or The Verge, it’s either the Toshiba Chromebook 2 HD if someone wants a 13" screen, the Dell Chromebook 11 if you want to give 11", or the Acer 720P if the Dell is unavailable or someone wants a touch screen (Dell aims their model towards education so it can be hard to get a hold of).
If a new laptop isn’t needed but a phone is, the Nexus 5 would another gift in this price range. I find it’s a good size, has good performance, and having it be a Nexus device means it actually gets timely phone updates.
If none of that is needed, then I would give a Sonos Play:3. Now Sonos sells the Play:1 at a cheaper price, but I would want to give the mid-tier model to get people started with music in their living room. There is also the Play:5, but the Play:3 is enough for any room that isn’t cavernous but can still easily work in a smaller room if someone decided to upgrade themselves to a Play:5.
$430 per household #
If a tablet was desired in the house, then they would get a Nexus 9. It’s a good size and light. Plus there is a folio keyboard case for those who want a physical keyboard.
$750 per adult #
This is another magical price point with two options. If the Nexus 5 was deemed too small, they would get the Nexus 6 as a phone. While rather large as a phone, it’s high quality and some people simply like big phones.
If a phone wasn’t desired, then they would get a Sonos PLAYBAR. This gets them great sound for their TV while also getting them into the Sonos ecosystem.
$1,400 per household #
Doubling the budget gets you to the Macbook Air if a full-featured laptop is necessary in the house. It’s light but powerful enough to do whatever my family might need.
Now I actually promote Chromebooks over Macbook Airs since that much power and ability is not necessary for most people. I flat-out challenge my family to explain to me why they need a Macbook over a Chromebook and usually they don’t; they just want an Apple laptop out of habit.
$30,000 per household #
Bumping the budget yet again by 15x gets you to a VW Jetta TDI if a new car is needed. Since my family all drive petrol-based cars I would rather get them over to clean diesel for the environment and savings in petrol prices. Plus the power of diesel is just fun to drive (this is actually the car I drive and I love it).
$40,000 per household #
For a 33% bump, I would buy people an Audi A3 TDI to get a nicer car that still used diesel.
$120,000 per household #
Use a 3x multiplier and that gets you to a Tesla S as a new car. EVs are as clean as you can be for the environment. As long as they had a way to charge it and they fit in the car – which I actually don’t compared to my Jetta at least behind the wheel – then this would be the preferred car.
Rather extravagant for me to buy for five households each, but this is the gift that would call for me being worth around $100,000,000 so I’m allowed to be extravagant.