stuff we buy ourselves

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in December

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

If you follow our monthly feature “Your Shopping Cart,” you know we have some eerily good intel on what you all are buying. Which led us to think that, as Strategist editors, we could turn the tables and highlight all the things we’ve been buying for ourselves. As you’ll notice, it’s both a blessing and a curse to be a Strategist editor; we’re picky, but sometimes we just have to get on with it. (It’s online-shopping expertise meets IRL needs.) Below, what we all bought in December.

Rachael Griffiths, writer

Lately I’ve found myself 20 minutes deep into TikTok after only meaning to check the time on my phone. With my screen time growing and my attention span dwindling, it was clear that it was time to invest in a watch. Luckily, I spotted a Casio sale in Game during a last-minute Christmas shop. As well as displaying the time, the watch’s hourly alert feature helps me make sure I don’t let endless hours wile away, which is especially useful when trying to utilise my time at work. I’ve also found the morning alarm to be a welcome change from the various iPhone ‘Radar’ and ‘Marimbas’ I’ve been using for years (and much more effective, as there’s no option to snooze).

When we asked journallers about the best planners and diaries, journalist Zoë Phillimore
recommended this one from Papier. The planner is laid out in a way that allows you to keep track of your day-to-day projects and appointments, as well as giving you space to track habits, to-dos, and larger goals. All in all, it’s a great place to keep track of all of your plans and thoughts without them becoming jumbled. There were also a huge number of patterns and colourways to choose from; I opted for a simple purple, blue, and red squiggly option, and even got my initials printed on the cover (which felt very fancy).

As someone that spent the majority of lockdowns one through three bleaching, box-dying, and all around just abusing my hair, many of my Christmas gifts last month were hair-care oriented. As well as some lovely Olaplex bottles and hair masks, my sister bought me a Tangle Teezer, an item I’d lusted after as a teenager and had all but forgotten about. The compact shape and plastic guard makes them ideal for popping in your bag, and I genuinely notice the difference in my hair when I brush with it. As well as making my hair feel instantly silkier and smoother, it’s taken away a lot of the grimacing that usually accompanies trying to drag a comb through my fried hair. I also love the way the brushes look: my one in particular is in a very shiny sky-blue chrome.

Chris Mandle, writer

I was introduced to British brand Percival about ten years ago after my friend Dan Rookwood, formerly a creative director at Nike, put them on my radar. Since then I’ve spied their knitwear, polos, and overshirts on men such as Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and David Beckham (and Gareth Southgate, who wore the brand’s Sherlock macintosh during the Euros in summer 2021). During their excellent winter sale, I picked up this mohair sweater vest for 50 percent off. I’ve taken to wearing it over a white T-shirt with a stiff pair of Dickies and some chunky trainers.

Late last month a friend tipped me off that Colorful Standard’s boxers came highly recommended by her boyfriend – he said they were some of the comfiest he’d worn (the words “secure” and “package” were bandied about, too). On a recent trip to Spitalfields, however, I couldn’t find a single pair in my size, so I snooped around the internet, where I eventually discovered the Leeds-based Hip Store was doing a 40-percent-off promotion — each pair was £10, down from £16, which is what I’d spend on a pair from Uniqlo. While browsing, I added a grey crew-neck T-shirt into my shopping cart, reasoning that the 40 percent off made the £27 tee cheap enough to take a gamble on. The boxers have a slight stretch to them, but they’re soft and slightly thicker than Uniqlo (the waistband seems notably better quality).

The T-shirt is also a hit — I’d describe the fit as quite slim, closer to a J.Crew T-shirt than, say, the boxier Pro Club tees I am particularly fond of.

My old Braun beard trimmer lasted me about six years, and it finally gave up on me last month. I’d been putting off replacing it for a while — I have bought a lot of trimmers over the years and have found the vast majority to be useless. While it’s true you get what you pay for in terms of blade quality, trimmers costing more than £50 feature so many bells and whistles that finding a good-quality model that doesn’t come with 17 assorted blades, add-ons, or nose-hair removers is quite a task. After an afternoon browsing models, comparing reviews, and asking friends, I finally settled on this Braun trimmer as it was just £20, and I’m happy to say it does a fantastic job. It’s incredibly light, and though my facial hair is fairly short, it comes with ten settings, should I ever feel like growing it out. And there are no pointless add-ons, either.

My go-to cleanser (as documented on a previous editors’ haul) is Cerave’s SA cleanser, which features salicylic acid and encourages gentle exfoliation. But over the last couple of months my skin was feeling drier, most likely due to the cold weather and my generous use of the central heating. I knew Cerave’s moisturising cleanser came approved by our U.S. sister site, so when it dropped down to a mere fiver, I added it to my cart. It’s notably thicker than the SA cleanser, and I’ve started using it on days when I’m not exfoliating. I’m already feeling a difference. My skin feels less tight and dried out after washing my face, and I can keep the thermostat cranked high as often as I like.

Rosie Percy, senior audience-development manager


A friend of mine bought their first home by the seaside just before Christmas, so I wanted to give them something extra-special. I found Time & Tide via Felix Cohen, a Strategist-approved cocktails expert and founder of the Manhattans Project; the company is his new lockdown project. Each Time & Tide print shows a year of tide heights, sunrise and sunset times, and the full moons for any location.

Time & Tide were able to set the location to my friend’s exact new address to mark their first year in their new home. The result is really beautiful: The tides, sunrises, and sunsets are mapped out in glittering, subtle metallics on matte black paper, so the print looks different from all angles as the light hits it. A map in the lower corner shows exactly where in the world you are, which was a nice, grounding reminder that’ll always be a permanent marker of where you’ve been, even if you move. I loved it so much that I had a second print made for myself to gaze at while it’s still too cold for a lunch-break sea swim.


I’m a big fan of party games at Christmas, and I wanted to add to my existing collection, so I checked our archives for advice. When asked for their favourite games, experts recommended Funemployed as a replacement for Cards Against Humanity (one of my former favourites that’s now a little overplayed). And as the game can accommodate up to 20 players, it worked for the groups that came and went over the festive period.

The game invites players to interview for jobs such as a paparazzo and supervillain using increasingly absurd qualification cards that they’re given. Each player takes a turn to be the “employer,” who others have to pitch to, arguing why a flaming sword is necessary to be a plumber or explaining why grunting is an invaluable skill for the role of porn star. The setup of the game took a little while to get used to, so I’d recommend going through a trial round first, but it didn’t take long before we were all cry-laughing around the table.

In my November haul I wrote about my sensitive skin reacting to the slightest change, and in December I experienced an uncomfortable allergic reaction around my eyes. I’d used Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream to soften rough, scaly patches before, but as it contains exfoliating salicylic acid, I needed something gentler for the delicate skin around the eyes. So I picked up a bottle of La Roche Posay’s Skin Soothing Eye Cream — it contains neurosensine to calm down redness and niacinamide and thermal spring water to soothe irritation. I used one small pump of the cooling, milky cream around my eyes as soon as I got home from Boots, and within an hour they felt less swollen and itchy. After two days of applying morning and night, alongside my usual skin-care routine, the irritation had almost completely disappeared. I still apply the cream in the morning if my tired eyes are especially puffy or if they feel strained after a day of staring at the screen. It keeps irritation at bay, and I swear my eye bags are less noticeable too.

Ailbhe Malone, senior editor

I am no PC gamer, but I have been playing Beat Saber on my husband’s HP Reverb G2 since he bought it in March 2021. The HP Reverb G2 is a VR headset that unlike Oculus isn’t linked to Facebook. Instead, it runs through Steam (a kind of iTunes for PC games). Regardless of where you play the game, Beat Saber is tremendous fun: a song plays, and you need to, erm, saber the beats in time. However, while the basic game pack comes with songs, they’re all made specifically for Beat Saber and are a little AI-generated. Imagine a ’00s Euro dance hit written by an algorithm: Some are catchy, some are dross. When Lady Gaga released a Beat Saber music pack in December, I bought it and have had it on rotation ever since. Slashing my way through “Stupid Love” is infinitely better than queueing up “Rum N’ Bass” by Beat Saber in-house band Boom Kitty for the fifth time.

Meanwhile, I asked for a surprise from my favourite shop for Christmas (my family does a secret Santa; it’s best to be specific). Run by the former curators of the Monocle webshop, Foundland is based in Wood Green, North London, and is full of endless international delights — from Japanese trail running socks to French clay soap. My mum bought me a zine I’ve had my eye on, a guide to London’s green spaces, an Onsen-scented candle, and more. Everything came wrapped in Foundland’s signature black tissue paper and red twine and was sealed with a red wax stamp. Practically perfect.

Lucy Carr, intern

Like so many others, my board-game collection has grown pretty extensively over the past few years. My most recent addition came as a result of browsing in John Lewis for Christmas presents and being drawn to the cute illustration of dumplings on the Nice Buns box. I scrolled through a few rave reviews on my phone and brought it to the till. Now it’s one of my favourite games to play with my housemates.

Nice Buns is a strategy game for two to six players, and the aim is to be the first person to fill your “plate” with three sets of different-coloured bao buns. This involves rolling three separate dice and picking up, swapping, and stealing buns from other players, all while trying to avoid the grey fish-head buns, which spoil your plate. (I’d recommend watching a YouTube video to understand the rules, as it’s definitely a lot easier to pick them up quickly when you have a visual example of how to play.) It’s a super-fun, easy-to-learn, tactical game you can play in half an hour — a relief if, like me, you can never quite make it through a full game of Monopoly.

The Lyrics, by Paul McCartney

My dad and I have always shared a mutual love of the Beatles. So when I saw Paul McCartney was releasing an autobiography in the run up to Christmas, I knew it would be the perfect present for him — as it turns out, we had a similar thought process, because he’d bought me the exact same thing! It’s a weighty, alphabetically arranged two-volume in-depth analysis of 154 McCartney songs, featuring reflections on his life and writing process, with unseen photographs, handwritten original lyrics, and more. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, it’s so interesting to read about the stories, processes, and inspirations behind each of his songs. Yes, it’s expensive, but I managed to get it in the Waterstones sale for £57 — and it’s now discounted to £38. I’m very excited to keep leafing through (though as the volumes are collectively over 900 pages, it might be a while until I can add it toward my 2022 Goodreads challenge).

I’m a sucker for a pair of statement earrings, and when I saw these disco-esque hoops in my local Oliver Bonas store, I fell in love with them instantly. They’re made out of chunky resin and have a colourful glitter inlay which appears iridescent when they catch the light. I’m cautious about choosing good-quality earrings as my ears are quite sensitive, so I find that steel-backed options like these are a safe choice as they tend to be less reactive than other materials. I also barely notice when I’m wearing them, as they’re extremely lightweight. This has come in particularly handy since I’ve taken to wearing them every other day as a way to perk myself up on particularly grey January days.

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in December