When it comes to holiday gifts, high-tech gear, consumer electronics and cool gadgets are high on everyone’s list.
Unfortunately (for the gift giver), these devices tend to be on the expensive side.
In previous editions of our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, we’ve covered gift ideas for those with an unlimited budget, as well as for devices with a price tag under $500. Those were easy (there’s so much cool technology to be had when cost isn’t a big factor).
This time around, we’re tackling the more difficult challenge of finding high-tech gear that doesn’t break the bank. It’s not as easy, but it can be done.
In keeping with the money-saving spirit, all the cool gadgets in this edition of the 2015 Holiday Gift Guide are $50 or less.
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Fitbit Zip
Believe it or not, you can pick up a pretty decent — and very funky — activity tracker from the leader in wearables for $50 or less.
The Zip has been around for a few years, but it’s still a great little device. It clips to your clothing, tracks steps, displays calories burned and uploads data to your iPhone or Android device.
It also runs for months on a replaceable watch battery with no recharging needed, and is virtually indestructible — I’ve put one through the wash accidentally and it survived intact.
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Google Chromecast Audio
This little dongle doesn’t just look cool (the colorful vinyl form factor was a nice touch), but it actually offers very useful functionality if you have an old-school speaker dock or stereo that lacks wireless capability.
Plug the Chromecast Audio into the Aux input jack (or optical audio input if you have a higher-end system) and, using your mobile device or PC, you can then stream — or “cast” as Google calls it — music to be played through those previously dumb speakers over Wi-Fi.
Chromecast Audio can be used with Android (naturally), iOS, OSX, Windows and Chromebooks.
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Amazon Fire TV Stick
Under $40 gets you streaming video that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port.
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick has instant access to streaming services such as Netflix (NFLX), lets you play casual games on the TV, and for just 10 bucks more (still under $50) you can get a Fire TV Stick with Amazon’s cloud-based personal assistant, Alexa.
Naturally, Amazon Prime members also get unlimited access to Prime Video and Prime Music.
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Anker PowerCore+ mini Backup Battery
It doesn’t matter what smartphone you buy, it never seems to have enough battery life.
To remedy the need for a power boost in an emergency, some people turn to gadgets like Apple’s polarizing $99 Smart Battery Case.
But, you can be a Christmas hero with the AnkerPowerCore+ mini for a fraction of the price.
This lipstick-sized backup battery has a USB port, plenty of smart technology (e.g., surge protection), and 3350 mAh of power — more than enough to fully recharge an iPhone 6, or most other smartphones for that matter.
It fits in a purse, pocket, glove compartment or Christmas stocking, and you can pick one up for under $15.
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Misfit Flash
Another entry in the red-hot wearables category is the Misfit Flash.
It’s hard to argue with the math on this one. The Misfit Flash tracks steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and even sleep duration. It comes in an assortment of bright colors, includes both a clip and a sport band, and is currently selling for $20.
The Misfit Flash’s LEDs show progress toward your fitness goals, but it lacks the Fitbit Zip’s built-in LCD display, so you’ll need to check your paired mobile device for actual numbers. Still… $20!
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Misfit Bolt Smart Lightbulb
Here’s another entry from Misfit, this one aimed at the smart home.
Smart light bulbs like the Philips (PHG) Hue system let you control everything from a bulb’s brightness to its color using a smartphone app, but the Philips Hue still carries a premium price and requires the use of a proprietary hub.
Misfit is currently offering its Bolt connected light bulbs for $29.99, a great price for such cool gadgets.
Like the Hue and similar systems, you can turn the Bolt light bulb on and off, control brightness and choose from millions of colors using your smartphone. Unlike the Hue, however, there’s no hub required because it uses Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi.
For $30, you get a smart bulb that will fit into any standard socket and is ready to go right out of the box.
Christmas Gift Ideas Under $50: Amazon Fire
Last, but certainly not least, on this list of affordable gift ideas is one of the most talked-about tablets of 2015: the Amazon Fire.
It doesn’t have the cutting edge specs of the latest Android tablets, and it lacks the eye-catching design and build of an iPad, but the Amazon Fire has a 7-inch display and a fast enough quad-core processor that it’s actually usable.
The Fire is perfect for watching streaming video, surfing the web, or running any of the 300,000 apps available from Amazon’s own app store.
Best of all, the Amazon Fire is just $49.99, meaning you can gift someone with a new tablet without emptying your wallet.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.