Getting the latest gadgets and gizmos for friends and family can be expensive. But there's no reason to bankrupt yourself this holiday season.
If you missed out on the doorbuster big-screen TV deals and don't have the cash for a new phone or smartwatch, there are still plenty of smaller tech gifts that not only fit into a stocking, but fit in your budget. They may lack some of the pizzazz of the big ticket items, but they're often infinitely more useful.
We have included links to buy the products we are highlighting. In some cases, if you purchase an item from our link, we will collect a small percentage of the sale. This has no impact on editorial decisions about what we are recommending. Proceeds from these sales will be donated to the Council for Economic Education, which supports economic and financial education.
Luminoodle Bias Lighting ($20) People generally have a light on in their living room when they watch TV, but that can cause a glare on the set that's distracting and annoying. This strip of LED lights attaches to the back of your set, plugs into your TV's USB port and provides a pleasant ambient lighting effect that actually enhances your viewing experience. Eye strain is reduced and the picture quality seems slightly improved. And since the lights turn on and off automatically with your set, it's one less thing to worry about.
ReliefBand ($90) Originally designed for expectant mothers, this wristband that prevents nausea has quickly expanded its target market. It does an admirable job of fighting car sickness. And for people who feel queasy playing virtual reality games, it can be a godsend. The band uses pulses on the underside of your wrist to control the parts of your brain that send out signals for nausea. It can be a bit uncomfortable at times, but it's FDA cleared and it works.
Zus Smart Car Locator ($30) USB car chargers are pretty common and might not normally make this list, but Zus has a couple of notable features that make it stand out. First, it charges your devices faster than many competitors (it claims to be up to twice as fast, though your experiences might vary). It also has a handy 'car finder' feature that lets you locate your vehicle in a crowded parking lot when you've had a sudden case of airport- or mall-induced amnesia.
Vidbox ($100) Digitizing old family videos from videotapes or old-school camcorders is generally a pain in the neck. Vidbox simplifies that, providing the hardware and software to import older videos and safely archive and share them. The product works with any system that used RCA cables (the red, yellow and white plugged ones). While the younger generation may not need Vidbox, anyone over 30 will definitely appreciate it.
Chatlight ($30) If you've ever tried to FaceTime or video chat with a friend or loved one, you've probably experienced the frustration of less than optimal light conditions. This peripheral attaches neatly to your phone, tablet or laptop and shines a soft LED light that actually flatters most users (versus the harsh partial glow of a strong, nearby light bulb). It also has a good battery life for extended conversations or meetings.
Mophie Powerstation ($50) It's hard to go wrong with any Mophie battery phone charger or cases, but the Powerstation is an invaluable tool for someone who uses their phone or tablet nonstop throughout the day. It's light, portable and lets you refuel your device multiple times on a single charge. It's something every business traveler should carry with them at all times.
TrackR Bravo ($30) Constantly misplacing your keys or wallet? This thin, quarter-size device pairs with your phone and can help you find them in seconds. If you're near the lost item, the device's beeping sound will lead you in the right direction (though we'd prefer it to be a bit louder). If the distance is significant, GPS tracking will lead you to it. In a nice twist, though, you can also use the TrackR bravo to find your phone should you misplace that. Just push the button on the device and your phone will ring loudly, even if you've muted the speaker.
UR Powered gloves ($48-$75) There are plenty of gloves on the market that let you continue to operate your cellphone in cold weather. These do it with a bit more style. The company offers both men's and women's leather-topped gloves that fit snugly (but not uncomfortably) thanks to a spandex-like fabric on the palm side. There's also a line of traction built into the gloves to help prevent your phone from slipping from your grasp. They're warm. They work. And you'll look good.
EBags Connected Luggage Tag ($5) Lost luggage is almost always found by your airline. But in those circumstances when it's not, it never hurts to have a little backup. EBags takes a slightly different approach than other smart luggage tags, hiding your personal information and letting you decide how much you want to share with anyone who scans the tag's QR code. You are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers should your bag go missing, but it's an added layer of security that a lost bag won't lead to something worse, like identity theft.
ReLeaf ($50) Know someone who's trying to cut the cable cord? Mohu's HDTV over-the-air antennas are already top of class for their unobtrusive design and quality. This upgrade adds environmental awareness to the benefits, as each ReLeaf is made from discarded cable set-top boxes. It's still an unobtrusive design that's not much bigger (or thicker) than a sheet of paper. And it's extremely effective at picking up local high-def channels that your cable or satellite system might not offer.