I have some #realtalk for you: Christmas and Hanukkah are less than 3 weeks away. The gift clock is ticking, people! But just because Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over doesn't mean you need to pay a lot of money for your gifts. We've pulled together some old and new favorites here that can be yours for under $25. All of these products (or previous versions thereof) have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by CNET editors.
The Echo Dot is the baseline experience for Amazon's Alexa smart assistant -- assuming, of course, you're buying for someone who's comfortable with a live microphone in the house. In addition to answering all sorts of everyday queries ("What's the weather tomorrow?") and controlling Alexa smart home devices, the Dot also does double duty as a decent wireless speakers (more for podcasts than for music). It was down to $22, but it's popped up to $24.99 now -- still below its usual selling price. Read our Echo Dot review.
Of course, not everyone wants to jump on the Amazon Alexa bandwagon. Thankfully, the Google Home Mini is an excellent alternative to the Echo Dot. For Black Friday, it was discounted down to $19, but even the current $25 price is a nice discount from the full retail price of $49. See our Google Home Mini review.
Who needs a smart assistant anyway? This savvy Sony speaker doesn't listen in on your conversations, but it is fully portable, water-resistant and it sounds great for its size. Yes, this model dipped to as low as $15 during Black Friday sales, but even at its higher price, it's still affordable -- and a great gift. Read our Sony SRS-XB01 review.
Some Lego sets go for $100 or more, but few of them are as fun as this line of Lego Technic cars that retail for under $18. Choose from the Whack! (shown), the Bash! line, the Getaway Truck or the Police Pursuit cruiser. You can build good-sized cars that include pull-back motors. Buy more than one and you can combine them into a bigger vehicle -- or just crash them into one another while you eat ice cream or drink eggnog (the engine block pops out on impact). These are intended for kids ages 7 and up.
Apple is rumored to be developing its own wireless tracker. But in the meantime -- and for the millions with Android phones -- the Tile Mate tracker gets the job done nicely. For $25, just tuck this little guy in a wallet, attach it to a keychain, or even stick in on your water bottle, coffee cup, or luggage tag. You'll see why they're amazing gifts.
Maybe the game has Stranger Things to thank, but it feels like Dungeons & Dragons has had a small resurgence in recent years. But if you need an inexpensive gift for someone who's looking to expand their game horizons beyond the gamepad realm, the classic pencil-and-paper roleplaying game may be just the ticket. This starter set includes everything a newbie needs to get the game up and running -- including all the requisite multisided dice, natch -- all for under $15. If you're buying for someone who already has some ideas of how the game should be played, the new D&D Essentials Kit might be a better choice, though.
Want a perfect gift that will work with any computer -- Windows, Mac or Chromebook -- as long as it was made in this century? The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive splits the difference between older and newer PCs perfectly, because the design sports both USB-C and USB-A plugs on one thumb drive. And now the 128GB model is priced below $25. It's also a great gift for anyone with a recent USB-C iPad Pro, since the autumn iPadOS upgrade added support for external storage.
These handy straps loop through your phone case so it's easy to keep a good grip on your phone. They go for $6 each, with a choice of dozens of patterns and a variety of colors available. Buy three or more (pick your own colorful palette) for free shipping on products purchased, and you'll have a trio of helpful business gifts. Resident CNET Cheapskate Rick Broida calls the Ninja Loop "the best stocking stuffer ever."
There are plenty of cheap smart plugs out there that can help you save money, but the Belkin WeMo Mini is one of the few at this price that deliver the hat trick: compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple's Siri (HomeKit). In other words, this plug convert any lamp in the home into one that's voice-controlled. If you're already gifting a smart speaker, this is an ideal add-on gift -- the two items purchased together make for a pair of perfect housewarming gifts.
Looking for additional cheap gift gear? Check out more choices below.
Originally published earlier, updated with additional gift picks.