Last minute gift ideas for the programmer in your life

Did you, like me, wait until the last minute to buy holiday gifts for your programmer friends? Maybe we can help. We asked our engineering team what gifts they like and would appreciate receiving. We’re publishing their responses in full below in the hopes that you can find inspiration for your upcoming holiday gift frenzy a la Jingle All the Way

If, like the Angular framework, you are opinionated, then drop us a comment about the gifts that we forgot to highlight. Because I still have some shopping to do. 

(And for the record, we don’t get any kickbacks from these links!)

Code comes from coffee

Several of our engineers suggested coffee-related gifts. When you’re powered by caffeine and code reviews, a cup that covers both can create that holiday cheer. 

David Haney, Engineering Manager

I really like the coffee mugs that Startup Vitamins does. I send one to my devs each year as an Xmas gift. They always go over well, and a bonus is that SV ships internationally!

Tom Limoncelli, SRE Manager

Does your annual review ranking top out at “Meets or Exceeds Expectations?” Say it with pride that you’re tied for “ok” with most of your other coworkers! Meets or Exceeds Expectations Mugs and T-Shirts.

You can thank your boss with this: World’s Okayest Boss mug

Piper Lawson, Senior Product Designer

A Mug! But not any mug… A coding mug! Which needs three basic characteristics:

– Room for at least 16oz (~473 ml)

It is a well-known fact that programmers are responsible for at least 128KiB of all coffee consumed in the world. The more space, the more coffee, the less trips to the coffee maker and you got yourself a more productive developer.

– Resistant material

Programmers tend to smash their mugs at the table if something goes wrong while the code is compiling, which is usually the perfect time to take a sip and the mug is at optimal smashing distance from the table.

– Bad geek joke

Most importantly, you need a bad geek joke. If it’s good it’s no good. Nothing beats the classics like “World’s #0 Programmer.” And remember… You can always search for it! 

Add-ons for your computer

Since programmers spend a lot of time at their computer, maybe something that makes that time more pleasant would make a nice gift. A new computer or computer component, weirdly, is not always the best gift. Many programmers also custom build their rigs (or just get a Mac laptop) so they guard their system specs zealously. 

Tom Limoncelli (again)

Data-blocking USB adapter! 

Charge your phone or other USB devices without fear! Attach a PortaPow USB Data Blocker between your USB cable and charger to physically block data transfer / syncing. Charge mobile devices without any risk of hacking / uploading viruses. Buy the six-pack and share them with the whole family!

(Shameless plug: Tom discusses why charge-only is important.)

Laura Campbell, Developer

I have trouble being productive without my monitors. This on-the-go portable dual-screen for laptops is on my wishlist so I can take advantage of remote work and be productive wherever I am. 

I got a DOTGRID.CO notebook for Christmas a couple of years ago—it’s by FAR my favorite notebook. Sturdy, great size, plenty of pages, and a dot grid instead of a solid grid makes it the best sketchbook I have for my UI and UX needs.

The Razor Black Widow keyboard. I purchased it as a gaming keyboard, but it has worked very well for my office setup, too.

Jon Chan, Team Lead

Roost Laptop Stand: When I started going nomadic at Stack Overflow, one of the things I missed was having a monitor that was level for me. I’m a tall guy, so hunching over a coffee shop when I was traveling to work on my laptop was a strain. This laptop stand is collapsible, lightweight, and easy to use. If you have a wireless mouse and keyboard to go with it, you have a mobile workstation pretty much anywhere you go.

I’ve also published my nomad travel stack here if you want more ideas for a traveling dev. Lots of these are great gifts.

John Bubriski, Web Developer: 

For designers (and aspiring designers): Apple Pencil. The “old” Apple Pencil works with the low-end iPad, so it’s a pretty inexpensive way to get a nice digital art setup.

Fun && Games

All work and no play makes a programmer freeze and possibly crash. A bit of fun (although programming adjacent) can help take away the stress of compiling and setting break points. This is a catch-all category, so these gifts are fun for some values of fun. 

Lynn Ballard, Director of Information Security

If anyone is a little rusty at C, C++, or Java, this is the gift for them: c-jump Ski & Snowboard Race.

Why go to a bootcamp when you can ski?

Tom Limoncelli, basically Santa at this point: 

The IPv6 Buddy. What to get that network engineer you love? How about the IPv6 Buddy? The internet is moving from the IPv4 protocol to the IPv6 protocol! Is their keyboard ready? With the IPv6Buddy, they can type 0-9, type A-F, colon, and even the double-colon easily! It’s a joke gift that actually works!

John Bubriski (again)

Any of the electronic kits/projects from They have a ton of projects that range in difficulty from DIY portable consoles to Python-powered IOT displays.

For anyone really: Field Notes notebooks. Great to carry around in your pocket for when inspiration strikes.

There you go, a few ideas to get you started on the road to getting a sack of prezzies ready for your developer friends and family. Share the love and let us know in the comments what presents you’d give instead.


Ryan Donovan
Ryan Donovan is a Content Marketer at Stack Overflow. He's been writing for developers for two decades.

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  1. My antivirus blocks some URL that is loaded by the startup vitamins page. If it’s infected, maybe the link should be temporarily removed. (the link is api.gtsby[DOT]io)

    1. Nalin Nishant says:

      mark that URL as non-spam by manually checking its source code r files

  2. Abel Callejo says:

    T-shirts with an awesome printing craft and bad geek joke on it

  3. Rafael Serna says:

    ” user400654 says: “meh” ”

    That’s exactly what I was going to write!

  4. Mug, really? The same like coming to a person and saying to his face: “I don’t care about you, here, take a mug that you get every holliday from everyone”

  5. How about a papercraft Tesla Cybertruck?

    Since Teslas are basically computers with a car built around ’em, a papercraft model could be a good nerd’s gift.

  6. Saw this ugly sweater today and it is so funny:

    I would love this haha

  7. How about gift from stackoverflow to contributors who has minimum 20k reputation?. I am really fan of SO but don’t standout among my colleagues. If I have something like SO mug or t-shirts or anything with SO stickers that would be awesome 👏✊👍👍😎

    1. You’ll have it once you reached 100K reputation 🙂

  8. [IJsbrand Mulligan] Ḿűỻịgǻṇạcểơửṩ ᛗ says:

    How about fancy coffee cappucino and lattes. Or, matcha?

  9. If you’re looking for programmer-level shirts/mugs/hats/bags/stickers/notebooks/onesies – check out Kelly Vaughn’s stuff that she created – – I especially like the github contribution blanket…

  10. I got an add for this here in stack overflow…seems kinda weird that they are advertising this here. I mean arnt most people here in stack overflow programmers or want to be programmers? Seems a bit obtuse to advertise to programmers about getting gifts for the programmers in their lives. But 100% I know i’m reading into this way to much, because I should be working.

  11. Well, well, well… I am a 13-Year-old programmer, and I know that I would love one of those sweaters or mugs for the holidays. Ugly sweaters are my favorite, so I get weird looks from everyone at the grocery store.(I love it when the cashier tries not to give me a funny look, but does anyway…!!) I’d definitely buy one of these for the programmer in my life… ..That is, if there WAS a programmer in my life, besides me 😀

    1. Joking, I’m not 13 … 🙂

  12. NullPoiиteя says:

    in brief, imho best gift would be “Time” managed properly.

    As a programmer myself when i look back into my life i found only one thing that i had been lacking and that is completeness. I got to understand that “life is more than just writing code” no matter how much you like it. It is our family, friends and people around us with whom we can truly be complete as a social being.

    I urge all avid and crazy programmers (may be like me 🙂 ) to get out of work chair and have some quality time with family and friends and trust me feeling of being loved by another person is best feeling better than getting rid of bug that is bugging you for a week.

  13. For electronic kits:
    The PiDP11 which is a modern Blinkenlights replica of a DEC PDP11/70 that runs most of the original DEC operating systems. Found at:
    The catch is due to popularity there is usually a backlog on orders.

    Coffee Mugs:
    The VIM Cheat Sheet Mugs. Must admit I could not find the design I bought years ago. But Google did found:

    DVDs/Blueray videos:
    Mr Robot (Seasons 1 to 3)

    Game (Table top):
    The computer is your friend.The obvious role playing game for a geek is not Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest or Traveller. Paranoia will get you every time. To quote the Gamemaster Handbook:

    Game (Computer)
    Eliminate all the First Person Shooters as any kid can play. Any game that requires mashing the keyboard (e.g. Tetris) to win can be ignored for the same reason. .It goes without saying that there should be DirectX 12 graphics so that will eliminate the retro games. Now a game for a Geek needs to have enough complexity so that there is a learning curve.

    The learning curve of ‘Spreadsheets in Space” which is now known as EVE Online is appropriate for a Geek, plus it meets all the other requirements.

    An IPv6 book has already been noted. If you are talking about communication protocols for the Geek then TCP/IP Illustrated (The Protocols) must be:on the bookshelf:

    Now this appears to be way to hard as tastes in music might include Industrial Metal or Dark Country to name a couple of genres. No matter the personal tastes for the Geek there will always be a place for Tom Lehrer:
    New Maths

    The Elements

    If I had to choose one item out of all the suggestions then it would have to be the PiDP11 kit. Blinkenlights for the win.

  14. > If, like the Angular framework, you are opinionated, then drop us a comment about the gifts that we forgot to highlight.

    Oh boy, you asked for it, LOL ! 😁

    > Code comes from coffee

    Fair enough. But it also comes from marijuana, methamphetamine or painkillers. 😉 Thomas Edison used Vin Mariani, for example (which is basically ethanol + cocaine.) Who needs Red Bull, eh?

    I am not recommending anything illegal here: I am just pointing out that if we had thrown productive people into prison for the sake of dictating their personal lifestyle choices (as we do today), we would not have things such as light bulbs and all the other aspects of “civilization” that followed as a result.

    A lot of code that industry relies on today was built with cannabis, because it helps people focus on tedious tasks. And a lot of code is generated with the help of painkillers too, because that is the only way people with severe chronic pain can continue to function. So my statement is not directed at anyone in particular. But some people really need to hear this, since medical freedom is going to be the last great civil rights issue:

    If you cannot make an effort to support authentic “liberty and justice for all”, then sometimes the best gift you could ever give someone is to leave them the fuck alone, and mind your own business.

    Merry Christmas!

  15. no thanks, you just tried to paint a picture that programmers have no life. They’re robots.

    M E H.

  16. Don’t forget to include your company’s logo to the print so that programmer would never forget about who is so generous and caring to him.

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