Money Talks, So Should You

7 Father's Day gifts dad will actually use

And remember past the Fourth of July,

Jason Notte
by Jason Notte, MainStreet contributor (@Notteham)

PORTLAND, Ore. (MainStreet) — For the fortunate among us, a father was the person who sacrificed hours of sleep comforting a crying child in the early a.m. hours, traded in his zippy commuter car for something he could use to shuttle his kids and their stuff, and hasn't watched a film with an "F" bomb in it during daylight hours in more than a decade.

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Getting a Father's Day gift he won't forget by the Fourth of July isn't too much to ask under those circumstances.

Father's Day spending is expected to hit $13.2 billion this year, according to research firm IBISWorld. That's a 2.1 percent increase from last year, but that won't matter if it's being spent on afterthoughts. The $1.73 billion being spent on clothes this Father's Day is actually down 0.3 percent from last year and includes the dreaded, cliched tie.

It's also not a whole lot, considering folks are planning to spend the exact same amount on gift cards. Nothing says “Holy crap, it's Father's Day” quite like a gift card picked up at the last second in a supermarket checkout lane.

In an attempt to stem the tide of disappointment and give dad something he'll remember longer than the final score of that late September baseball game you took him to because tickets were cheap and the opponent was perennially terrible, we're presenting the following seven items as humble suggestions.

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If even one of these gadgets is still in use by Christmas, it's doing its job:

The Pebble Watch
Price: $150

Last year, we offered up a watch strap for Apple's tiny iPod Nano as a clever means of bringing dad's accessories into the 21st century. Well, as you can see, Apple immediately messed with the Nano and made all those watchbands irrelevant in 2013. On the bright side, a few bright folks raised $10 million on Kickstarter to produce this watch that not only connects to your iPhone or Google Android device via Bluetooth, but has a bunch of apps of its own to offer. Granted, Apple and Samsung are rumored to have similar devices in development, but let dad be ahead of the curve for once.

Philips CitiScape Uptown Headphones
Price: $150

Dad, by nature, is old school. He still has his record collection kicking around, he still puts on The O'Jays or Gerry Rafferty when he thinks no one is listening and though he may have made the jump to digital and squirreled away some MP3s on his smartphone, he still likes dropping that needle, hearing that hiss and letting the rich tones he loved in his early days sink in again. He just doesn't like doing that looking like the middle-aged version of David Guetta. Sorry, but putting your Gen X-to-baby boomer dad in a pair of Beats By Dre or SkullCandy headphones is like saying Ke$ha sounds better on vinyl. It's incongruous at best and, at worst, just flat-out wrong.

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Philips worked its way around this issue by designing noise-canceling headphones designed like the giant-plugged stereo versions of more than a generation before. Wrapping brown faux-leather over memory foam and 40 mm speakers, the Citiscape phones may be more comfortable and clear than he's used to, but will work wonders for his beloved stack of LPs. Just don't expect him to wear them anywhere but near his turntable and, perhaps, on a plane. Back in his day, you just didn't wear this kind of gear out in public.

Crosley Collegiate Turntable
Price: $150

Then again, if dad wants to take his vinyl to go, this isn't such a bad option, either. Even before the recent vinyl resurgence, Crosley has been treating records as if they'd never gone out of style. That shows up in the Collegiate, which looks a whole lot like a 1960s-vintage portable record player and, with its built-in leather handle, can pick up and go at any time. Even if dad doesn't feel like lugging this to his buddies' barbecues, it connects to other devices through its USB port and allows him to rip songs from his LPs and 45s to MP3s.

The Hydroflask Growler
Price: $50

The author of this list spends a healthy portion of his time writing about beer. Living in Portland, Ore., he also gets a lot of that beer poured into growlers — 64-ounce glass jugs that allow a drinker to sample craft beer cheaply and do so without wasting bottles or cans. It's a great way to try various beers and it's an even better way to get to know the brewers and bartenders filling them.

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That said, if you're buying one for your beer-loving dad, make sure he has a lot of drinking buddies on hand or can make 64 ounces of beer disappear in a day or less. While they're great for transport, unless the folks on the other end have a system for pressurizing your growler, that beer is going to go flat in a hurry. Stopgap solutions such as the Tap It Cap and Growler Saver are on the way, but not in time for Father's Day.

The Hydro Flask's insulation and tight seal are the best chance you have for giving your dad a growler that will not only keep his beer cold under difficult conditions, but carbonated as well. That's the best a growler can do, at this point, and that's why it's going to cost you. A standard screwtop growler usually only sets you back $5 to $10, with fancier, steel-handled contraptions with porcelain flip-tops and rubber gaskets running about $30. Neither option can make the Hydro Flask's claims, however, which makes it an especially excellent option for a dad who'd never spring for such a thing himself.

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Woodinville Whiskey’s Age Your Own Whiskey Kit
Price: $150

Maybe your dad's the kind of guy who doesn't consider beer a drink, but a set of training wheels for when you're ready to try a real drink.

The folks in the surprisingly distillery-flush town of Woodinville, Wash., know his type well and offer something a bit more hands-on. The distillery's kit includes two 750-milliliter bottles of 110-proof White Dog un-aged whiskey, a two-liter Kentucky oak whiskey aging barrel, pouring funnel, two tasting glasses and a book of instructions. Since a decently aged whiskey can be turned around in six months, dad's first batch should be ready by the holidays. Should that not be up to snuff, the next batch can be his Father's Day present to himself next year.

Stick-N-Find Bluetooth Location Tracker
Price: $50


How often do you find yourself waiting to see if dad has his keys, wallet, watch or anything else he hasn't kept on his person before heading out the door? If it's a regular routine, Brookstone is selling a solution that allows him to stick Bluetooth tracer discs to his various belongings and use a free Radar map on his Apple iOS or Google Android device. That app can track up to 20 items at once within a 100-foot range, alert dad if one of his items moves out of range and ping him again if it returns. The Bluetooth stickers even have a buzzer and light, just in case dad's having a tough time finding the remote in the dark. This all assumes, of course. that the iOS or Android device isn't the item he's always losing track of.

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Grill Alert Talking Remote Meat Thermometer
Price: $70

No, your dad doesn't “need a hand with the grill.” He knows exactly how long to cook that flank steak until it's as firm as the inside of his palm. He knows exactly when to lift the hood on that grill, and the answer is always “not yet.” On Father's Day, however, dad can feel just a bit besieged in his outdoor kitchen. It's his day and everybody wants a conversation with him, but nobody can leave him alone long enough to keep track of the meat they wanted cooked to order. And you know who's going to catch hell about overdone, hockey-puck steaks every Fathers Day after this one? Not the folks turning his grill session into an episode of Inside The Actor's Studio. This wireless receiver not only keeps track of preparation time by meat type, but will adjust for rare, medium-rare, medium or well-done. It'll also tell dad when his grillables are almost ready or ready.