This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.
Call these stocking stuffers or just affordable gifts, but we’ve pulled together some of our favorite items, gadgets and otherwise, available for $30 or less. We’ve personally tested or used all of these and they’re all something we’d like to give — or receive — during the holidays, or any other time of year.
Note that pricing and availability of this tech under $30 gift guide were accurate at time of publication, but both are subject to change without notice.
Buying for someone who prefers full-size headphones? Priced at around $30, the Tribit XFree Tune have long been our go-to affordable full-size wireless headphones. But there’s now an even cheaper model, the XFree Go, that we’ve seen for as little as $21. At the lower price, you get plusher, more comfortable ear pads, Bluetooth 5.0 and 24 hours of battery life, and a 10-minute charge gives you four hours of playback time. The sound is a little more bass-forward than that of the Tune, but at this price, it’s really hard to complain about what you’re getting.
The Lenovo Smart Clock has long been among one of our favorite “cheap but good” smart home devices when it’s on sale (this season, the price seems to be hovering around $40). But if you want to save even more, the new Smart Clock Essential opts for something of a dumbed-down monochrome screen, but this device still delivers the time, temperature and weather, along with full access to Google’s voice assistant. The USB-A port in the rear makes it easy to charge devices on your bedside table, too.
Read our Lenovo Smart Clock Essential review.
Roku has updated its 4K Streaming Stick for 2021 with the addition of best-in-class Dolby Vision HDR support. It just debuted at $50, but it’s already selling for just $29. Read our Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus review.
Surf around on Amazon, and you’ll see countless no-name true wireless headphones available for $50 or less (see our favorite tested models under $50). The less you spend, the more challenging it is to get a decent-sounding model, but we’ve had good luck with the Tranya brand. The Tranya Rimor earbuds started out at $50, but this cool tech gift has since dipped to $30 or less. They have decent sound and an IPX5 water-resistant rating, which means they’re sweatproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water. Their charging case is fairly compact and charges via USB-C.
At five hours, battery life isn’t fantastic, but the earbud charging case does give you three extra charges. At $30, they’re a bargain, with larger 10mm drivers than the 6mm found on the similarly priced Tranya T3. For a few bucks more, you can also check out the Tranya T10.
We’re all cooking at home a lot more these days. And the Lodge Grill Pan is a cheap and easy way to bring the essence of the grilling experience to your stovetop. (Mine gets used at least once a week.)
True story: In my collegiate days, 3.5-inch floppy disks were a thing, and they stored a whopping 1.44 megabytes of data on them. This flash drive costs under $21, and it stores 128GB, the equivalent of almost 89,000 of those floppy disks. This model sports both USB-A and USB-C connectors, so it’ll work with any computer out there as well as newer iPad Pro and Mini models.
Wizards of the Coast
Some old-school D&D is a nice face-to-face break from the virtual world of video games. The Essentials Kit gives you everything a group of pencil-and-paper adventurers need to get questing, but true beginners can opt for the equally affordable Starter Set instead. (Those already bored with D&D can dip their toes into the world of Gloomhaven with the new $50 Jaws of the Lion set instead.)