Our Favorite Things of 2021

If you're like most folks, you're still hunting for last-minute Christmas gifts.

So today, as part of our annual tradition, my team and I wanted to share our best gift ideas with you. These are all things we've liked, used, and purchased ourselves. As with everything we do here, we want to give you all the information we can to empower you to take control of your life.

And if you've already finished your shopping, why not get a little something for yourself?

My (Doc's) Picks

If you're a regular reader, you know I really like the Peloton bike and treadmill. (I only have the bike, but my friends and brother have the tread.)

The Peloton app and platform make it super easy to follow instructors and get motivated by them. For example, instructor Alex Toussaint's workout, with his music choices and attitude, gets me feeling great by the end of the ride. He's the perfect choice when I'm just not feeling motivated and need inspiration.

If I'm looking for something pleasant and without the boot-camp-style workout, I'll choose Denis Morton or Sam Yo. And if I want fun dance music and goofiness, I'll choose Jess King and Cody Rigsby.

I'm nearing a 100-week streak, and it feels effortless. The usability of the equipment and the screens for matching the physical experience are nearly perfect in my mind.

I'm also giving the books Whatever Happened to Penny Candy and The Clipper Ship Strategy by Richard Maybury to young family members this year. Richard is a longtime writer of political and economic history as well as a newsletter publisher.

He's spoken at company events about the risks with China and its military, among many other things. I find his common-sense take refreshing and real. He's one of the greatest free-market thinkers and writers that I know. As this market and the world around us get crazier and crazier and as governments print their way into power, his take on economics and war will be invaluable for my nieces and nephews!

Our director of research, Matt Weinschenk

As so many have in the past two years, we've upgraded our outdoor living space. That included a Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit.

Nothing beats sitting outside around a fire in the fall and early spring. But no one enjoys getting stuck in the downwind seat that gets flooded with smoke.

The Solo Stove bills itself as "smokeless." It has no moving parts but uses the natural airflow created by the heat to keep the smoke inside. At $299 for the 19.5-inch model, it's a little expensive. But to get a truly smokeless experience, it's worth it.

And if you use it right, it delivers... While your clothes will still smell like campfire, you don't see or breathe in a lot of smoke. You can sit in a full circle, close to the flame, and no one is coughing. It looks great, and it's easy to dump out and put away.

The only caveat is that its stainless-steel surface gets hot, so be careful if you've got little ones – or tipsy adults – running around.

Our franchise manager, Laura Bente

Last year, my dad gave me the most useful gift I've ever gotten... a portable car battery charger. Wintry temperatures are tough on car batteries. The colder the air, the more life your battery loses. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a car battery loses 35% of its life. That's particularly bad news if, like a lot of folks have during the pandemic, you've stopped regularly running your car... Especially if your battery is more than a few years old, it's less likely to start your car when you finally need it to.

I highly recommend the Viking Power Pack. It takes a few hours to fully charge it, but once it's ready, it will charge your car in less than a minute. I've used this on my cars, for neighbors, even strangers in parking lots. And it has worked equally well when I've used it in below-freezing temperatures and in 100-degree-plus heat. I always make sure I keep mine in my car fully charged.

Our contributing editor, Kim Iskyan

If you're looking to build muscle, lose weight, or build bone density, free weights are one option... but they're (potentially) dangerous, don't bring your joints any joy, and can take up a lot of space. And weight machines are great – but what if you don't want to go to the gym?

Enter the X3 Bar, a home workout system that requires no more space than an airplane bathroom (if you remember what those look like) – and delivers a two-bangs-for-your-buck quick and intense weight workout. It's kind of like resistance bands on steroids that, using a short steel bar, deliver the benefits of free weights – but through resistance that's both safer and more effective.

The X3 is a safe and efficient way to build muscle safely and get a great workout – in the comfort of your own home, as they say. The X3 isn't cheap... but then, neither is a gym membership.

For a lower-budget gift, consider my favorite snack. It goes with everything and anything... It's full of protein... It can be a meal on its own... And it's easy to transport, since it doesn't require refrigeration.

I'm talking about peanut butter. I've tried it all over the world, and the pinnacle is Eliot's Nut Butters, a small-batch nut butter company based in the (go figure) Eliot neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. (A close No. 2: New Zealand's Fix & Fogg.)

Eliot's ingredients are the no-frills basics, with no unpleasant additives or oils, done right. Its Classic Salted Peanut Butter is the best. But the real difference is with some head-turning variations like Spicy Thai Peanut Butter and Honey Chipotle Peanut Butter. The Espresso Nib Peanut Butter is also worth checking out.

Our contributing editor, Thomas Carroll

Early in the year, I read two books I highly recommend...

The first was called Empire of the Summer Moon. Through the story of a young girl kidnapped and raised by the Comanches in the early 1800s, this nonfiction account walks you through the bloody, decadeslong battle for the American West. It's an absolutely brutal story and one I never learned in school, but it should be required reading for our kids.

Just after finishing this book, I picked up The Doctors Blackwell. Another nonfiction account covering roughly the same period of U.S. history, it tells the true story of the first woman to be admitted to medical school in the U.S., Elizabeth Blackwell. She and her sister, Emily, were pioneers in medicine, smashing through one of the first professional glass ceilings. It's an amazing story. It's hard to believe what these women endured... think eye surgery, childbirth, and illness before anesthesia.

My other potential gift is expensive... but it can be life-changing for the right recipient. My favorite hobby is high-performance driving. It can be an expensive sport, but I'm able to do most maintenance and repair jobs in my garage. In fact, I really enjoy it.

This year I added a new tool to my garage – a portable hydraulic lift called the QuickJack. This is similar to the machines that lift your car off up at your local auto fix-it shop. However, mine can be moved around to fit different cars and stores easily. While not cheap (my version costs about $1,400), it has exponentially improved the garage experience with my cars.

If you're a car guy or gal and embrace the therapeutic exercise of turning wrenches – this thing is a must-have.

Our analyst, Jeff Havenstein

I've always considered myself a good cook, and I especially love grilling... So I was thrilled when my friends surprised me with a Masterbuilt 30" propane smoker for my birthday.

Over the past few months, I've become obsessed with smoking meat. From ribs to pulled pork to chicken wings, it's very simple to do. Best of all, the meat comes out delicious every time.

Our health and wellness researcher, Misha Lazarus

Most of us know that drinking water from the tap at home isn't always harmless... The 2014 water crisis in Flint, Michigan is just one dire example of that. But rather than investing in bottled water and overflowing my recycling bin every week, I run my tap water through a ZeroWater Filter.

Most water filters only have two filtration stages. But the ZeroWater filter has five sections that remove 99.6% of the inorganic compounds and contaminants from the water that runs through it. The filtered water tastes so much cleaner than water directly from the tap. And I know exactly when it's time to change the filter, because the water starts to taste like someone added a little lemon zest to it.

And if you like, you can enjoy your refreshing glass of water on a fancy new coffee table with a lifting top. This was a great buy for me this year. It provides functional storage for my living room, as well as a raised platform... That means I don't have to hunch over if I'm working on the computer, playing a board game, or enjoying the occasional meal from my couch. These coffee tables are widely available, but here's the one I bought.

We hope you've enjoyed our gift list and find something for yourself or someone you love. What are some of your favorite things that have gotten you through 2021? Let us know at [email protected].

As a disclaimer, we do receive a very small amount for anything purchased through Amazon links. It has no bearing on our recommendations.

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
December 9, 2021