CyberMonday Gifts That Can Pay For Themselves?

My friends and I were talking about CyberMonday and we started trying to come up with some gift ideas that might pay for themselves, beyond the usual rechargeable batteries or fluorescent light bulbs. Things we’d actually want to receive as gifts, or may end up buying ourselves with the inevitable gift cards. Here’s a few of them:

Emergency Hand-Crank Flashlight and Cell Phone Recharger – Keep one of these in the car, and your cell phone will never die. Just crank and recharge! This one is even solar-powered. Add in the fact that many old cellphones with no monthly plan still have 911 service, and you have another nice emergency back-up. I actually bought one of these – one tip is to make sure you have the right power adapter tips for your phone and keep it handy.

Ooma VoIP Phone System – This VoIP phone system that costs $210 upfront, but you don’t have any ongoing monthly fees for unlimited local and long distance calling in the US. I still haven’t seen one in action, but I keep hearing good reviews though this blog.

Wii Game Console – We were divided on this one (mainly between those who have one and those who don’t…). It can certainly produce less going-out and save money on movies/food/drinks that way, but all the little accessories really add up. Controllers, $50-$80 a pop since they have two parts. Guitar Hero will make you want two guitars. And now comes the Wii Fit! Still, I must admit I love those Raving Rabbids…

Crock Pot / Slow Cooker – Cold weather + recession = Increased slow cooker sales. At least that’s my theory. I saw this at Costco and they were selling fast. The actual crock pot is removable for serving and easy clean-up.

Some previous mentions:

Chest Freezers – Not really much of a gift idea, but still something to consider as food prices are still going up.

Kill-a-Watt Energy Meter – For some reason I bought one of these a year ago, took a bunch of data, and then promptly lost it when we moved. Arrgh. Need to dig this up again.

The Simple Dollar also has some other items in his list of gadgets that actually save money.

Any other ideas?


  1. “Add in the fact that many old cellphones with no monthly plan still have 911 service”

    According to FCC regulations, ANY deactivated cellphone must continue to allow 911 access.

    So any old cellphone should work to call 911.

  2. I’m still not sure if there are monthly fees for using voip. So are there? I’d do the one time up front cost of the equipment…but I don’t want to pay ANYTHING per month….I have a cell phone for that charge.

  3. Joseph – you are correct about the regulation, but I have an old cellphone that is a TDMA phone, and I don’t believe TDMA service still exists. Therefore there are some old cellphones that won’t work for 911.

  4. FWIW, I bought a Kill-a-Watt thinking it was really cool and ended up not using it much at all.

    Really, what are you going to learn from a Kill-a-watt? It’s better to turn off a computer than put it to sleep. It’s better to unplug your cellphone charger when it’s not being used than leaving it plugged in. That CFL light uses more energy than that incandescent. All pretty much common sense stuff.

    If you’re not using an appliance, unplug it. If you’ve got a laptop or computer that you put to sleep, turn it off. If you don’t mind the light and downsides of them, use LCDs or CFLs instead of incancesdents. If you’ve got a powerstrip with a number of “sleep” devices on it (TVs, DVDs — things that dont completely power off and will respond to remote controls when off), turn it off at night and turn them completely off. Etc. You don’t need a kill-a-watt to tell you any of that!

    If anyone does have any more novel or interesting uses for a Kill-a-watt, I’d love to hear them, as mine is just collecting dust!

  5. I even know some people with the old-school analog cell phones as well. Those shut down in early 2008.

    Kuzbad – I think it’s more like the knowledge that you can actually save a concrete $10 or $100 per year by turning it off, as opposed to some vague number.

    I agree that after you get it, it can get boring. Perhaps it’s best to sell it after you get the use out of it – that would also reduce the overall cost.

  6. @navifoto: The VOIP question is more complicated than that. What you need to understand is that VOIP is data transferred via Internet. You need:

    1. one part connection to Internet
    2. one part device that converts phone to Internet communication
    3. one part means to find the remote party (read the other person you want to call).

    We know 1. is your internet connection for which you pay a monthly fee. 2. is a device for which you pay a one time fee. 3. is the tricky one. It is tricky because you can have several options.

    a. get a service like Vonage that interfaces with the established phone system
    b. call/connect only to known remote parties that are also connected to the internet via 1. + 2.
    c. call/connect to other remote parties (and only to them) via a PBX, like Asterisk, which is a server that stores the “internet phone numbers” of all parties that subscribe to it.

    These are the monthly fees on top of your Internet connection fees.

    a. a monthly fee
    b. no fee
    c. no fee if the Asterisk server is setup by one of you and a fee if it is setup by a service provider that you subscribe to

  7. Ooma sounds great, though I’ve read some literature saying that the company is in dire straits. My viatalk subscription is up for renewal soon and I may bite the bullet. I’ll break even if the company stays around for 1.5 years or so. Supposedly they’re upgrading their hardware in a future release of the Ooma Telo (link here ).

  8. Andy @ Retire at 40 says:

    Tip’d! Great article. Some things I like which pay for themselves are:

    * bread maker
    * yoghurt maker
    * energy saving lightbulbs
    * cotton bags (instead of paying for plastic bags)
    * little plastic food containers to stop you buying cling-film (wrap)

  9. Instead of a Wii (nothing against it), I recommend a Playstation 2.

    A used one’s from Gamestop are very reasonable and the available library is huge and the cost low. Especially hit the buy 2 get 1 free sales at Gamestop. I’ve probably average about $5/game doing this.

    Gamestop WAS offering a new PS2 for about $130 and a $30 gift card last week with a purchase.

  10. + A water filter pitcher (brita/pur) and a nice refillable bottle.
    + Prepaid cell phone (tmobile) that have 1yr expiration after $100 for those that use less than a few hundred minutes a month
    + A lesson on how to change a flat tire vs. that person calling a tow (or anything else you can teach easily)
    + A plastic christmas tree?

  11. auntie_green says:

    Actually, the tire change comment from ok2go, reminded me of AAA. My first thought was that I’d call AAA if I had a flat. But the real value I get from AAA, that way-more than pays for the annual fee, is the discounts I get, usually at hotels, but often other places like the San Diego Zoo. Sheesh, you stay 2 nights at a mid to high range hotel that give a 5% or 10% AAA discount, you save more than the annual dues

  12. auntie_green says:

    oh, and how about donating old cell phones to charity? There are a few around that give them to battered women’s shelters and such

  13. Say ‘no’ to Wiis! The novelty wears off a few weeks after you buy it. I sold mine half a year ago and don’t regret it at all (though, it’s good if you have drunken parties at home, which I don’t). To be honest, there haven’t been many good games that have come out since half a year ago, maybe one or two, and one of those games came out on PC as well.

    The only redeeming thing is that if you take care of it really well, it’s resale value is decent. The resale value of the games is horrible though.

  14. I recently purchased an Ooma and love it. With a payback of < 1yr it was a no brainer for me.


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