gifts they'll want in a pandemic

What’s the Best Thing (Under $200) You Bought Yourself This Year?

Author Tayari Jones signed up for a monthly cocktail-subscription box that she uses for Zoom happy hours. Illustration: Debora Szpilman

As Strategist editors, it’s our job to notice how people shop. Over the past nine months, we of course reported on people all of a sudden buying sourdough starters and bidets and sweatpants and home-office chairs and Zoom lipstick. But we also heard the stories about people just going for it and buying things that in Normal Times they would never consider, from new pairs of old-school roller skates, to prime cuts of mail-order pork, to baby grand pianos. So as the holidays rolled around we decided to ask some of the most interesting people we know a simple question: What is the most satisfying thing you bought for yourself this year? Below, all of the under-$200 things these folks with discerning taste — who include a congressman-elect, a Real Housewife, two Coppolas, a butcher, some bakers, and even a couple of candlestick-makers — bought in quarantine that would make great gifts. If you’re looking for more affordable ideas, we’ve got options under $50. And if you’re looking to splurge, we’ve got options over $200, too.

Jamaal Bowman

Congressman-elect, New York’s 16th Congressional District

The Force is like my religion. This game helped me get through fundraising and dialing for dollars for my campaign. It’s one of the most incredible gaming experiences anyone could ever have. You travel from planet to planet as a Padawan on your path to becoming a Jedi. It’s awesome.

Miranda Kerr

Model; CEO and founder, Kora Organics

I am obsessed with karaoke, and I got the Bluetooth karaoke microphone so I could perform on the go. It has been one of our favorite family activities during quarantine.

Sarah McNally

Founder, McNally Jackson

A fabulous robe to slightly glam up my quarantine life. It’s from Laina Jane, a sexy mom store on Christopher Street.

Penelope August

My daughter loves it: She’s looked at her hair and mine, and our saliva (TMI?), and she goes around the park picking lichen off rocks and collecting leaves to examine. I help her make the slides and focus the lens — it is very much a hands-on toy.

Phillip Picardi

Writer; host, Unholier Than Thou podcast

This bright mix of citrus and white florals is the right amount of freshness for an everyday clean scent for the air (and upholstery) in my home. It far beats the noxious fumes of Khloé Kardashian’s favorite, Febreze.

Franci Girard

Founder, the Sixes

I put one drop directly in my mouth at the beginning of a day. It calms me without making me groggy.

Rebecca Zhou

Co-founder, Off Hours

The perfect weight, a super-flattering fit, and the drawcord ankle cuff is really comfortable. I bit the bullet and bought two pairs — I already owned one — and now I have enough to wear in between laundry days.

David McGillivray

Co-founder, Off Hours

I had to have them and I don’t regret a thing. They don’t offer much support from an orthopedic perspective, but they are incredibly comforting to slip on in the morning.

Nicky Hilton


My daughters are obsessed — I use it as my new bribery trick. In two minutes you have rich, creamy, barista-quality hot chocolate.

This is great for sculpting and lifting. It feels so good. I love using it for lymphatic drainage.

Amanda Assad Mounser

Founder and accessories designer, Mounser

Opening the set of 150 colored pencils gave me the adult version of the rush I felt as a kid upon receiving a 120-count Crayola box.