13 X-Mas Gifts That Can Change (or Save) Your Life


Playing Santa isn’t easy. (Credit: GarlandCannon)

I dislike shopping, but I love finding the perfect gift.

Finding that gift, though, gets harder with time. Those damn adults seem to already have everything. That includes me.

More salt and pepper shakers? Nah. Alternate versions of the shirts I got last year? No, thank you. In the eternal quest to eliminate clutter, I now give Santa a not-to-buy list instead of a wish list.

If you’re having trouble thinking up killer (in the good sense) gifts, here are 12 goods that deliver.

All of them have either changed my life or saved my ass…

#1 – Israeli SilentEar Ear Plugs – $17.90 for trial pack

I have tried almost every earplug and noise-canceling gadget on the market, from $1 throw-away pairs to Bose headsets. I wasn’t really satisfied until I ordered these SilentEar plugs, introduced to me by Andrew Rosca when we were traveling in Vietnam. Get the trail pack, which includes multiple sizes. It’s not fun to order the wrong size and have to re-order.

#2 – Zorba the Greek – $10.20

Zorba the Greek is one of the two most impactful books (the other is the short Letters from a Stoic) I’ve read in the last two years. It’s both Epicurean and Stoic philosophies wrapped into a laugh-out-loud story you will never forget.

#3 – Fujitsu ScanSnap S300 Color Mobile Scanner – $242.99

This is the only scanner I have ever liked. Like isn’t strong enough. I love this scanner and have used it to remove at least 90% of the paper from my life. No more binders and folders for records, no more stacks on tables and desks.

I’ve never had a single paper jam, and it’s small enough to throw in a backpack for travel.

#4 – YouBar Customizable Protein Bars – $15+

Forget the maltodextrin-laden candy bars masquerading as meal-replacement bars. Adding protein to a Snickers bar does not make it good for you.

Skip to YouBars and create your own from all-natural ingredients. I suggest about 12 grams of protein per bar for optimal texture. Delicious and unique to you. They will even label the bars with someone else’s name for gifts.

#5 – Kershaw Ken Onion Leek Serrated Folding Knife with Speed Safe – $36.30

I have collected knives since taking pack trips through the Teton mountain range as a teenager.

This Kershaw knife with “open-assist” (basically a side-opening switchblade) is the most all-around convenient and beautiful knife I currently own. Fixed blade knives are awesome, but the balance and utility of this Kershaw blade is outstanding.

Be sure to get it with the serrated edge.

#6 – The 4-Hour Workweek Organic Yerba Mate Set – All profits go to DonorsChoose.org – $49 (only 250 sets available)

This is an exciting one for me. Samovar Tea and I have partnered to create an Argentine yerba mate set of three mate blends!

Here’s the bonus: All profits will go to DonorsChoose.org to benefit US public school students, and when you buy the set ($49), you get a $50 gift card to DonorsChoose! For obvious reasons, this is limited to 250 sets.

Yerba mate, with it’s unique nutrient and stimulant composition, is my favorite beverage on the planet. 3-4 hours of kick-ass zen productivity with no caffeine crash. Most people have never tried organic mate, and this is your chance.

#7 – Motor Trend 11-410 Power Center Jumpstart with Compressor – $84.16

I bought this Motor Trend device after getting stranded at the airport due to a dead battery. This compact powerhouse has prevented disaster on at least half a dozen occasions. From inflating tires to jumping the car without a second car, this is the Swiss army knife of fixing car trouble. I don’t take any trips without it.

Sidenote: The reason my battery was dead the first time? GPS plugged into the adapter. Even though it was turned off, it was draining the battery while I traveled. Unplug or be prepared.

#8 – Logitech Squeezebox Boom – $275.37

The Logitech Squeezebox Boom was my introduction to Internet radio streaming at home. Though I now use Sonos for higher-end playing, Sonos costs 4-6x as much as this simple and compact device. The Boom allowed me to listen to Pandora (here is my channel) and Rhapsody, the only two places where I now find and listen to music, while jamming on whatever needed jamming.

I haven’t seen anything better for the price.

#9 – Kindle with Global Wireless – $259

I resisted the Kindle for ages, as I like to take copious notes in my books. Then I went traveling with Matt Mullenweg and Kevin Rose on two trips. Then two things happened. First, note-taking became possible (which you can export as text files), and second, I was getting scoliosis from carrying a stack of books with me while Matt and Kevin sat pretty with their slim Kindles.

So I bought one. Now I won’t go anywhere without it, though I still prefer reading paper at home, so I often get both paper and digital copies of books I like.

#10 – Aqua Sphere Kaiman Swim Goggles – $11+

Some of you might recall how I conquered my fear of swimming. I went from a maximum of two laps to almost two miles in about two months. It’s still hard to believe.

In doing so, I logged a lot of swim time–I now love swimming–and tried every goggle out there. These are the bomb and elegantly seal the eye chamber without me feeling like my eyeballs are getting sucked out of my head. In world where it is rare, these puppies are comfortable and stay in place.

#11 – Sous Vide Supreme – $449

I first saw this French-inspired water oven, designed by Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, demonstrated by the world-famous Heston Blumenthal, head chef at the Fat Duck restaurant in the UK, which was voted by his peers as the best restaurant in the world in 2005. This is the first device to allow the “sous vide” method (French for “under vacuum”) of cooking at home.

I had the single best chicken and steak of my life using this machine. It is possible to evenly cook just about anything while retaining all of the juices. From main courses to desserts, Heston called it the greatest home cooking innovation of the last several decades.

#12 – Dedicated Virtual Assistant Through AskSunday – $279

AskSunday is the personal outsourcing service I’ve used most in the last two years. Speed-dial a NY 212 number and get connected to someone in India or the Philippines who speaks English well and can do just about anything. For everything from fact-checking to travel on the run, it makes life infinitely easier.

#13 – The New and Expanded 4-Hour Workweek – $14.85 (Kindle $9.99)

First, let me apologize, as I know this is my book. But there is a good reason.

The truth of the matter is that since April 2007 when this book first came out, my life has changed dramatically. It’s hard to believe how much has happened. 100s of case studies have come over the transom from 35+ countries, I’ve found gaps in the material, more families have provided tips, and this new and expanded edition adds in everything I’ve wanted to add for the last 2.5 years. It quite simply applies to more people and provides more examples.

Don’t get me wrong: the older edition still works just fine. This version is just better, and includes the best updated resources as voted on by 60,000+ people.

If you order two copies, you can get free shipping, so why not give one to your friend or dog? Dogs love the 4-Hour Workweek.

I will also do a live 2-hour Q&A on Dec. 22nd for all who order now. Take a perusal through the new edition and think up some questions!


Happy hunting!

May you get what’s on your wish list, and give the same to your loved ones.

Posted on: November 30, 2009.

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179 comments on “13 X-Mas Gifts That Can Change (or Save) Your Life

  1. Love the list bro. The Kindle is one gift that I am dying to get. And your book is the one gift that I am giving the most this year. No one can understand when I tell them that time shouldn’t be an issue.


  2. nice post tim. will have to get the new edition of your book :)

    what do you mean by “global wireless” on the new kindle? I am assuming you can hook up at wifi spots, but does it have some type of other mobile internet connection? do you have to pay data usage when downloading books?


  3. I picked up a Kindle 2 a few weeks ago as well, and although I’m not about to drop the $300+ AUD on another one as a gift, I will continue to brag about it friends and family because it’s so amazing. It’s fantastic that I can read the first 1-2 chapters of so many books instead of simply perusing the blurb like you have to do in book stores.

    But this post is going to cost me a bit of money because now I have to pick up Zorba the Greek and buy the tea set. I’d preorder the new version of 4HWW but it seems silly to buy a paperback book with the Kindle in hand. Is there going to be a Kindel version available at launch? Or is there some other eBook store I could get it from? :-)


  4. Hey just an extra question, does yerba mate go off? And how long does that take because i found and old (sealed) bag that has to be a year old and im not sure if it will still be good


    -Michael Banfield


  5. Great list Tim and going to pick a few things off the list for sure…

    Looking forward to the updated book as well! Ordered it a few weeks ago and might have to pick up a few more copies…

    When is your next book scheduled to come out?

    Be well and chat soon!


  6. For swim goggles, I recommend the Swedish Goggles. They are extremely inexpensive $4-5, and are a top choice by many. They were engineered for the Swedish Olympic swim team several Olympiads ago. They are extremely light weight, custom fit (because you dial in everything about them), and they create a great seal with almost zero pressure on your eyes sockets. If you are used to goggles with foam or rubber seals, these may seem counter-intuitive since they have no seal around the edge… it is simply the lense itself. They work great. I have used them for over 15 years now, since my days of competitive swimming in junior high.


  7. Great list!! I know this took a lot of thought. You just made my Holiday shopping much easier. I am definitely going for the work out bar because the snickers bar is adding too much to my turkey neck. I’ve been fighting the kindle idea…love the real thing. You know, like no implants. I want the new expanded version of your book…love the original and still get goose bumps from excitement when I listen to it on cd in the car! It just has that dream we all want to live. Oh yeah, the ScanSnap is a must have, tired of all the paper. Well, I’m done for the season. Thanks again for all the hard work! How much for the pooch shot with the Santa hat? That’s the winner!


  8. Hi All,

    Thanks for the comments! Just to answer a few questions:

    1) Yes, the new 4HWW is available on Kindle, for $9.99:

    2) Yes, yerba mate can go “off” or spoil. I still drink older stuff, as it’s bitter no matter what, but I try and replace after 4-5 months if you’re not sealing it air-tight in a bag of some type. In the end, Argies will use the same bag for 6 months+, so around there is fine.

    Any of your top gift suggestions?



    • Hi Tim.
      In your book your mentioned the “Canon Powershot” as
      your favourite camera.
      Didn’t see it on the website list.
      Just wondered if you still feel the same about it?
      If so which model ?



  9. Nice one on the SilentEar earplugs. My motorcycle is my main vehicle so I use earplugs daily. First though that came to mind was “will the flanges fit in the helmet?” but according to their sales page, it looks like it will. Good stuff. Thanks Tim.


  10. These guys are solid http://www.cubesquareinformatics.com/ … I’ve been working with them for a few months now…very workflow oriented stuff so not a ton of free thinking tasks…but they’re incredibly affordable ($3! an hour for basics)

    Great list Tim, I can see myself buying and wanting a few of these…if you know any fitness beginners or someone looking for something new, check out kettlebells…the all in one gym in a barbell. I can’t speak higher of them, perfect for compact intense effective workouts. The workouts can really go anaerobic and benefit runners too.

    I plan to read through the updated 4 hour work week and see if there’s anything more to pull into my project site for testing. Hope the fitness book and your travels are experiences to remember.


  11. Glad to hear you like the ear plugs. I don’t travel anywhere without them anymore, and I have a pair in my night stand for lazy fall weekend mornings when those ~!@#$%^ leafblowers howl outside.

    Great list as always! Shameless plug at the end ;-) but hey, the book is worth every penny!


  12. The Neat Desk is on my wish list! In addition to scanning business cards, receipts and documents it has intelligent software that picks out the important items (like location, date, amount) and then uploads it so you can assign tax codes to it. Helps simplify April 15th! Then for contacts it synchs with your outlook contacts so your phone is always up to date. Hotness! On another note, the foo dog for the blog posting makes me laugh!


  13. Woops. Should’ve clarified. Since I’m Down Under there appears to be licensing restrictions for the Kindle version of the book. I’ll buy it anyways but it’d be cool if there was some way I could get a digital copy. :)


  14. Gift idea: http://www.fitbit.com/

    Wear it all day and all night, tracks your moving and sleeping patterns, syncs wirelessly with your computer. Not bad at $100 (if you can get one–they are temporarily backordered).

    From the website:

    The Fitbit Tracker contains a motion sensor like the ones found in the Nintendo Wii. The Tracker senses your motion in three dimensions and converts this into useful information about your daily activities. The Tracker measures the intensity and duration of your physical activities, calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, how long it took you to fall asleep, the number of times you woke up throughout the night and how long you were actually asleep vs just lying in bed. You can wear the Tracker loosely in your pocket or clipped to your clothing, even bras.


  15. Animals love using my roof for a trampoline during the early hours of the morning, so I lose a lot of sleep. Thanks for the tip on the earplugs. I’ve been looking for a good brand. I’ll have to try these out.