These days, budgets are always tight. Thankfully, there's 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. (And yes, each of the items shown above is within that price range.)
Editors' note: This story was updated on June 12, 2014, with the addition of theJVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotubes headphones, the Divoom Voombox Travel Bluetooth speaker, and the Monoprice MBS-650 bookshelf stereo speakers.
Who said a stereo amplifier had to be expensive? If you want a "cheap but good" stereo for the a bedroom or den, just add an audio source (smartphone, CD player, TV -- anything with an audio output) and a pair of speakers to this little digital amp -- which costs less than $25. Given the bargain-basement price, it actually sounds pretty good, too.
And speaking of speakers, you don't have to overpay for them, either. The Monoprice MBS-650 are, quite simply, the best-sounding stereo speakers you can buy for under $50 -- so long as you don't mind their boxy look. Just make sure to invest in an amp (like the aforementioned Lepai), since they're not self-powered.
With no screen and limited capacity, the iPod Shuffle should really only be purchased as a secondary music player -- one that's exclusively used while working out in the gym or jogging. That said, it's the cheapest iPod you can buy, and it does a good job fulfilling its singular mission: playing music. More-full-featured alternatives include the sub-$50 SanDisk Clip Sport (see following slide) or the $149 iPod Nano.
Do they still make good old-fashioned MP3 players? The answer is "yes" -- and the new-for-2014 SanDisk Clip Sport does a good job of distinguishing itself from iPods, including the Nano, which costs three times as much. No, the Clip Sport doesn't play nice with iTunes -- you'll need to drag and drop your music files -- but for many of us, not having to boot up iTunes is actually a feature, not a drawback. The SanDisk Clip Sport also includes a small color screen, an FM radio, a lap timer, and a surprisingly decent set of earbuds. It's available in a variety of colors for $40 (4GB) or $50 (8GB) -- and even includes a microSD expansion slot for even more music. Not too shabby for the price, and perfect for joggers who want to leave the smartphone at home.
Why settle for slow, spotty Wi-Fi? Upgrade the network to the 802.11n wireless standard with the D-Link DIR-645 Amplifi Whole Home Router 1000. It features Gigabit Ethernet, OpenDNS-based parental control, IPv6, guest networking, and USB SharePort Plus technology -- all for under $50.
The problem: you need to get your home network coverage from one side of the house to the other, and the wireless just isn't cutting it. The solution: a pair of power line networking adapters, which turn your home's AC outlets into a glorified wired network (really!). The Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter kit includes two adapters for under $45, and offers plug-and-play setup that's far easier than most wireless extenders.
Whether Dad fancies himself an environmentalist or not, he'd 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.
For whatever reason, Panasonic seems to have become the go-to choice for cheap-but-good headphones. The full-size but lightweight RP-HTX7s do a good job of blocking out external sounds, and they sound great for the price. They're available in at least three colors (black, white, and green) for as little as $32.
The Moshi Mythros are some of the best in-ear headphones you can buy for $30 or under. Unlike many supercheap models, the Mythros includes an inline microphone for taking calls. (Looking for more cheap 'phones? Check out the best headphones under $25.)
Haven't you heard? Docks are dead. It's time to go wireless, and the Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver is the easiest way to do it. Connect this $25 dongle to any stereo (or anything with a "line-in" or "aux input" port), and you can wirelessly stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device. That includes all iPads, nearly any smartphone, most iPod Touch models, and most new tablets.
Bluetooth speakers are more affordable than ever, and the Philips SoundShooter Wireless is one of the best you'll find 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 a bit more oomph -- and NFC pairing).
It's got some caveats -- it natively supports fewer services than Roku or Apple TV, and you need to use your smartphone or tablet as the remote. But Chromecast delivers the big mainstays of streaming entertainment (Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, YouTube, and Google Play music and video) for just $35. There's no arguing that's an awesome deal.
At just under $50, the Roku Streaming Stick is a tad more expensive than the Chromecast. But for the extra money, you get a dedicated Wi-Fi remote (but 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.
If the $50 limit on the products we showed here is straining your wallet, don't worry: we've also put together a list of our favorite tech accessories for under $25 -- some of them are even as low as $12.