Holiday shopping budgets are tight. Thankfully, there are plenty of gadgets and accessories available that won't take a toll on your wallet. We've rounded up some of our favorite products available for under $50.
Editors' note: This story was updated with multiple additions for holiday shopping in October 2014.
Headphones are a perfect gift for nearly anyone. The full-size but lightweight Panasonic RP-HTX7s do a good job of blocking out external sounds, and they sound great for the price. They're available in at least five colors (black, white, red, pink and green) for as little as $32.
If your giftee prefers in-ear headphones, the Moshi Mythros are some of the best you can buy for $30 or under. Unlike many supercheap models, the Mythros includes an inline microphone for taking calls.
The Tylt Energi 2K does double duty as a standard USB charger (with fold-away prongs) and external battery pack. That's because there's a rechargeable 2,200mAh battery built into the unit, which comes in three different colors (blue, black, lime green).
When plugged into the wall, the Energi 2K charges your device first, then its internal battery. When on the go, it should almost double the battery the life of your phone.
No charging cable is included, but you simply connect a micro USB or Lightning cable and you're ready to charge whatever phone you want, whether it runs Android, iOS, or Windows.
myCharge makes a bunch of well-designed external battery chargers for portable devices. Its Energy Shot is among its smallest and most inexpensive (you can find it for around $20, although its list price is $30).
What makes it different from all the other cylindrical 2000mAh chargers out there that basically double the battery life of your phone?
Well, aside from coming in some very nifty packaging, it offers a few notable features, according to myCharge. It has "smart sense," which allows it to recognize any
device and charge it, two layers of battery protection so it doesn't overheat, and an easy-to-read battery life indicator which lights up when you shake the battery.
It comes with a micro USB cable, but if you're an iPhone users, you'll have to bring your own Lightning cable to the charging party (it just connects to the USB port).
Buying a gift for a music lover who's a runner or a gym rat? This iPod Shuffle was last updated in 2012, but it's still the cheapest iPod you can buy. The more full-featured iPod Nano will run you closer to $150.
Bluetooth speakers let you stream any music or audio (including services like Spotify and Beats) from your tablet or smartphone wirelessly. They're more affordable than ever, and the Philips SoundShooter Wireless is a great pick in the ultra-bargain (sub-$50) category. The unique "hand grenade" design delivers decent sound (with speakerphone capability) and up to 8 hours of battery life.
If you prefer a more traditional-looking portable speaker, Philips has another great sub-$50 option: the BT2500 (new for 2014). The design is reminiscent of an old transistor radio -- with a nice big analog volume dial -- but the BT2500 travels well and delivers impressive sound for its size. (Step up to the double-wide BT3500 for $80 if you want more oomph -- and NFC pairing.)
Whether your gift recipients fancy themselves as "environmentalists" or not, they'll be hard-pressed to not love the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760. It's eco-friendly and practical -- use this Bluetooth keyboard with a Mac, iPad or iPhone, and never worry about recharging the battery.
Similar to the K760, the all-new K480 is designed to toggle between any three Bluetooth-enabled devices, be they Android, iOS, Windows or anything else. A built-in tray lets you stand most tablets and phones. It's not as elegant as some dedicated iPad keyboard cases, but it's far more versatile for home use, and -- at just $50 -- not too pricey.
The iStabilizer Flex combines the iStabilizer Mount, a universal clamp that holds a wide variety of smartphones (up to 2.75 inches wide; and an XL version is available for larger devices) and a lightweight tripod with foam-covered bendable legs. What's handy is that the mount has standard 1/4-inch tripod threads, so if you have a bigger tripod or monopod, you can use it with that, too.
The pair cost $30 direct from iStabilizer, but can be found elsewhere for less. (By the way, this works well for the Kogeto Dot, thanks to the ball head on the tripod.)
The ingeniously designed Joby UltraFit Sling Strap is fast becoming a favorite at CNET. It tucks the camera neatly under or behind your arm when you're not shooting and quickly extends when you pull it out, plus it has an intelligent connector with a handle for screwing into the tripod mount. It does get a bit clunky around the attachment point, so the camera can't really sit flat, but it's a great gift for anyone with a compact system camera or dSLR.
You've heard of the smart home -- but how about the smart grill? The Quirky + GE Refuel does one thing -- lets you monitor your propane level from your smartphone -- but it does it well. It's an ideal gift for those who love gadgets and BBQ.
Saving the best for last: a cheap and easy video streamer is a great gift for any enthusiastic couch potato. These are small "sticks" you plug into any free HDMI port on a TV.
The most affordable one at $35 or less is the Google Chromecast. It delivers most of the key streaming services (Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, YouTube, Watch ESPN and many others), but the main caveat is that you need to use your smartphone or tablet as the remote.
The $39 Amazon Fire TV Stick is the newest member of the streaming stick family. It's basically a shrunken Fire TV box without the voice control function (you can add the voice-enabled remote for another $30). We haven't even reviewed this one yet, but it looks promising. Unfortunately, it's already so popular that anyone ordering it on Amazon won't receive it until January 2015.
At just under $50, the Roku Streaming Stick is a tad more expensive than the Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick. But for the extra money, you get a dedicated Wi-Fi remote (but you can use your iPhone or Android, too) and more than 1,000 channels, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Vudu and Watch ESPN. It's not quite as zippy as the Roku 3, but for half the price, it's a great streaming TV solution -- and possibly the best overall tech gift under $50.