(If you’re mailing your presents and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.)

As part of my annual service to my readers who can’t think of what to give to those friends and relatives who insist on exchanging gifts this time every year, I present two categories of goodies, cheap and not so cheap. For additional ideas see these posts.

Cheap but cool:

A tiny tripod. I love my tiny tripod. I’ve taken it around the world with me, and I keep it in my car at all times, just in case. I don’t use it that often, but when I do, it makes me very happy. The one I use is some version of the Pedco UltraPod Lightweight Camera Tripod, but there are also the ones with the squiggly grabby legs, like the Joby GP1 Gorillapod Flexible Tripod. Both are cheap, and both are the kind of thing one can happily own more than one of, so this is a low-risk high-yield gift.

The best presents are the ones that disappear, like food or other expendables. They are usually also cheap. So, consider those plastic protective sheets for an iTouch or iPhone or Android Smart Phone. They are more expensive than they should be, so a recipient will appreciate getting them, and they will eventually get used up (or lost) so you can give them every year!

The most expendable gift may be air. Now, I’m not sure how environmentally sound this is, but one does not use a lot of it: Bottled air to clean out the computer. And in the long run, the dust in the computer is probably not environmentally good anyway.

Speaking of air, consider magic air for de-icing the car. Now, this is an environmental hazard and I don’t think it should be used all the time. But, I’ll be giving Amanda a can of it this year anyway, because a) she parks outside at work b) has a tough commute and c) often has to get out of Dodge (the school she teaches at) quickly, and I’m afraid she often does a less than adequate job on cleaning off her windows. This spray, used in an emergency, can save a life. A cheap and thoughtful gitft!

Also expendable, like it or not, are headphones. I only use headphones while at the gym, where they get covered in sweat, assaulted with ear wax, and stepped on. Julia uses her headphones at school, where they get stolen every two weeks. So we always give each other cheap headphones. I found some pretty nice looking headphones on sale this year.

Not Cheap but Ultra Cool:

These are not gifts to be taken … or given … lightly. You have to know that the person to whom you give them wants them! But they are very, very cool.

For the computer geek who is over 45 years old and remembers the IBM PC and liked the keyboard, you could find an old IBM keyboard, or you could just get a mechanical keyboard. The best one out there is the Avant Stellar remake of the Northgate Omnikey, which is what I use. Good luck finding one of those. I bought one in 1993, and it went belly up last year, and I managed to find another one. That’s all I’ll ever need, most likely.

But you can get other Mechanical Keyboards that are not quite as good but much cheaper, under $100.

Give someone a Roku. They will be very happy. They will need to already have a broadband Internet connection, of course.

An iBook reader is a very very cool gift. I got mine as a gift, and it’s one of the best gifts I ever got. I like the Kindle, and among those, I think I’d opt for the WiFi only for someone who is well connected to the Internet, but for the whispernet version for everyone else.

One item I can’t vouch for one way or another, but that a lot of people seem to want, is this new Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote. There are version ranging from about 80 bucks up to well over 200. Anybody have any experience with these?

As an alternative to the remote, you can just get someone a bunch of socks and some hair ties. You roll the socks up, then place your remotes around the socks (button side out) and bind it all together with the hair ties. Instant universal remote.

The other classic higher end gift is, of course a PHS camera. I’ll post something on that idea in a few minutes.