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This is normally the time of year when we start thinking about holiday parties, the kind with Secret Santa or white-elephant gift exchanges. But thanks to COVID-19, this is the opposite of a normal year, so these traditions might be on hold -- or perhaps transforming in some way. (Zoom Santa? Quarantined elephant?)

Whatever the case, you may find yourself in need of affordable gifts for in-person or remote delivery. I've got you covered: Below you'll find some great options, all priced $20 or less. This is an update of last year's guide, so there may be some repeats -- but I've also got some terrific new additions. If your budget is closer to $30, we've got more great suggestions including wireless headphones and Roku streamers, too. Have more ideas? Share them in the comments, as always!

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Pour-over coffee is better than pod-based coffee. Like, way better than. It's not only a lot cheaper in the long run and better for the environment, it just tastes better. I'm a newfound fan of Oxo's dripper, which is a fast, easy, super-affordable option.

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There's a reason this game is a classic: It's easy to learn but challenging to master, and just about any age can play. Plus, show me a person who doesn't react with glee when a pile of blocks topples over.

Last year, Jenga was selling for as little as $5, but the demand for quarantine-friendly games has pushed the price up quite a bit. At this writing, it's $13. Hopefully it will come down again, but even if it doesn't, it's a great choice.

Govee

What could be better than an ultra-thin string of LEDs that can light up in all sorts of modes and colors? This peel-and-stick strip can be used for bias lighting behind a TV, mood lighting in a kitchen or bedroom or anything else you can think of.

It's "smart" too, controlled by remote or app. You can program it to go on or off at certain times, "dance" in response to music and much more. If this particular strip is sold out (or the price has jumped past the current $18), you should be able to find something similar for around the same price.

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Shopping for someone who's getting a first home or apartment? Get them started on the smart-home path with this smart bulb. The 800-lumen LED fits in any standard lamp and can be controlled by app, Alexa or Google Assistant -- no hub required. 

At only $8 apiece, you could actually get two of these and stay under $20 -- though shipping will bump your total closer to $25.

Read our Wyze Bulb review.

 

Nerf

Is there anything more satisfying than a Nerf-gun battle? Or just ambushing an unsuspecting friend or co-worker with a dart barrage? Obviously: no. This simple shooter holds six bullets in its rotating quick-fire drum. For under $13, it's an awesome gift. 

To make it even better, considering adding 100 rounds of Nerf ammo for just $10 more.

Phone Loops

My single favorite phone accessory in the history of phone accessories, the Phone Loop has evolved with tons of cool new patterns and colors (you can match them to your ugly Christmas sweater!), eco-friendly packaging and a new elastic option if you prefer something a little stretchy. Whatever you choose, they fit any phone case and help you keep a secure, comfy grip. That means no more dropping your phone in the bathroom and having a panic attack when it almost falls in the toilet. Plus, they add no bulk or weight and don't interfere with wireless charging. Perfect.

Fbsport

This is one of my favorite new things of 2020. It's a retractable ping-pong net that can set up just about anywhere: dining room table, picnic table, conference room table and so on. You also get a pair of paddles, some balls and a drawstring case to carry it all. Presto: Table-tennis to go.

The button below will take you to a set from Amazon seller RuRuYunYe, which currently has a $3-off coupon on a $22 set. If that's no longer available, there are countless other versions of this in the same price range. At this writing, for example, here's one for $19.97, one for $18 and another for just $16.

Jackbox Games

If you're looking for a funny gift, and are sick of giving people Cards Against Humanity, you need Quiplash, one of my favorite group games ever. It's sort of like an electronic version of Apples to Apples -- but much, much funnier. It's designed for three to eight players, who participate via phone or tablet, but even spectators can vote on their favorite answers.

The game takes place around a computer or TV; Quiplash is compatible with Windows, Mac, game consoles, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. The only catch is there's nothing physical to actually give, no box or the like. 

More holiday coverage


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