There are a number of occasions when you need to get someone special a perfect gift, and that money adds up over time. It can get expensive shopping for all of your friends and family, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to show someone you care. There are a lot of amazing gifts available for $50 or less and you’re sure to find the perfect gift with a little effort.
From an affordable weighted blanket to handy tech that will simplify your life, you can buy a perfect gift even if you’re on a budget. And whether you’re shopping for your best friend, your boss, loved ones or anyone else you see in your daily life, a gift here and another there will really add up after a while. That’s why we put together a list of some of the coolest $50 gift ideas (with a handful well under that) for whomever you’ve got on your gift list.
The JBL Bluetooth speaker that received the biggest improvements for 2021 is among the company’s smallest. The JBL Go 3 has a completely new look — it’s now covered in durable fabric instead of having the naked plastic design of its Go predecessors — and that new design, coupled with surprisingly decent sound for its small size, makes the Go 3 one of the top micro Bluetooth speakers out there.
Available in multiple color options, it has an IP67 water-resistance rating (it can be dunked in water and is dust-proof). Plus, the battery life is rated at up to five hours. It’s a great gift for the music lover in your life.
If you’re on the hunt for a decent pair of budget sunglasses, Knockaround has various models, including those with polarized and mirrored coatings, for $25 and even slightly less (prices start as low as $15). They’re not premium glasses obviously, but the lenses are pretty decent and the glasses look more expensive than their low price would indicate. These designer sunglasses also seem pretty durable. Several different styles, colors and lens options are available.
Sony’s new entry-level CH-720N noise-canceling headphones came out this year and they’re quite good, but if you can’t afford them (they list for $150), the company’s new budget on-ear CH-520 headphones are an intriguing option for only around $50.
They lack noise canceling and are pretty no-frills, but they feature good sound for their price, are lightweight and pretty comfortable for on-ear headphones, and also have excellent battery life — they’re rated for up to 50 hours at moderate volume levels. Additionally, they have multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can pair them with two devices simultaneously (such as a smartphone and computer) and switch audio. Voice-calling performance is decent, though not up to the level of what you get with the CH-720N.
Note that there’s no wired option — these are wireless, Bluetooth-only headphones. The CH-520 offer overall balanced sound with decent clarity. The bass has some punch to it but doesn’t pack a wallop, and you’re not going to get quite as wide a soundstage as you get from Sony’s more expensive over-ear headphones. But these definitely sound better than Sony’s previous entry-level on-ear headphones and sound better than I thought they would. I tried the white color, but they also come in blue and black.
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Weighted blankets have become a popular item that people use to sleep better. They hug your body and distribute weighted glass beads evenly in small pockets. This blanket is breathable and machine-washable in a cleaning bag on the gentle cycle. And you can’t beat the price.
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Chirp Wheel foam rollers come in a few different sizes and you can buy a four-pack of them if you’re looking for a set. But if you want to start with just one, the 10-inch medium size is a good one.
Chirp Wheels, particularly the larger ones, have a bigger circumference than your typical foam roller. They’re designed to fit between your shoulder blades, and I did find them better than your standard foam roller for stretching and realigning my vertebrae, though they are pricier.
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Here’s a gift that anyone who’s susceptible to losing things will appreciate. Apple’s AirTags accessories work with any Apple device and use the company’s FindMy network — the same one used to locate lost iPhones. Attach them to keys, a backpack or just about anything else. It’s $29 for one and $99 for four, and if you buy them through Apple, you can get free customized engravings, too.
Read our Apple AirTags hands-on.
If you’re looking for a compact external battery pack for your iPhone (or any smartphone), Mophie’s pocketable Power Station Mini (2022) features a 5,000-mAh internal battery and 20-watt USB-C PD fast charging. (You’ll need a USB-C to Lightning cable to take advantage of that fast charging if you’re an iPhone owner.) That battery will allow you to fully charge your iPhone.
For $20 more, you can pick up the 10,000-mAh version with dual USB-C ports — both come in black or blue colors. Also, note that Zagg, Mophie’s parent company, offers a 20% discount off your first purchase, so that model (it’s simply called the Power Station) is actually $50.
Created by former NFL fullback Chris Gronkowski (brother of Rob), the Ice Shaker not only keeps your beverages hot or cool — for hours — but comes with a removable twist-in agitator to help mix your protein shakes (or anything else that needs mixing). Available in a few different sizes and many fun colors, it has a built-in handle for easy carrying and starts around $35. It’s one of the better insulated bottles I’ve used and a great way to make sure you stay hydrated.
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Clckr’s new, trimmer Stand and Grip is one of my favorite MagSafe accessories. The accessory really sticks to the back of your MagSafe-enabled phone or MagSafe-enabled case and not only makes it easier to hold up your phone but when converted into a kickstand, it props up your device nicely in portrait or landscape mode for video calls or video watching.
This new version is lighter than the original and available in several colors. It’s one of the best MagSafe stands out there.
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Battery Life Rated up to 45 hoursNoise Canceling NoMultipoint YesHeadphone Type On-ear wireless headsetWater-Resistant No IP rating
Known for its value headphones and earbuds, JLab has released a pair of on-ear headphones with an integrated boom microphone — it can be rotated up when just listening to music — and multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect them to your phone and computer simultaneously. I’m more partial to the Jabra Elite 45h, which lists for $100 but usually sells for around $75. But if you don’t want to spend quite that much, the Go Work is a solid pair of headphones, and headset, for its modest price. They’re also comfortable to wear, with a lightweight design. You won’t mistake these for premium headphones but the build quality seems fine.
Battery life is rated at up to 45 hours at moderate volume levels, and you can mute calls using the multifunction button (an LED lights up at the end of the boom mic when the call is muted). I wouldn’t call the sound quality for music listening and the headset performance stellar, but they’re good, particularly for the price. For music listening, there’s ample bass and clarity and a cable is included for wired use. The headphones charge via USB-C. Bottom line: This is a solid gift for anyone who spends some or all of their time working remotely.
Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
Like some of the other open-ear neckband style options on this list, the Soundpeats RunFree Lite buds sit just outside your ears and fire sound into them from small speakers with 16mm drivers. The sound quality isn’t the greatest — it lacks some clarity — but it’s better than I expected given the price of these headphone. There’s a reasonable amount of bass, and they’re just fine for casual listening.
They’re nice and lightweight and fit my head securely and comfortably, but I could see how they might not fit folks with larger heads so well. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.3, they’re IPX4 splash-proof and are rated for up to 17 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels. Expect to get less than that because you will likely play these at high volume levels, especially outdoors where you’ll encounter more ambient noise. They also work decently for making voice calls, but don’t expect business-class performance.
Click the instant 15% off coupon and then apply the code DCCNETSP at checkout to get an additional 13% off, bringing the price down to $22.
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What’s cool about Anker’s 622 magnetic battery is that it’s a wireless battery that has an integrated magnetic flap that converts into a stand. You won’t get fast wireless charging from this 5,000-mAh battery (it charges at up to 7.5 watts), but it’s slim and easy to carry around.
It charges via USB-C, and if you use a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge your iPhone, it will charge at a faster rate of 12 watts. That’s not as fast as what a 20-watt USB-C power adapter can deliver, but it’s faster than 7.5 watts.
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What makes these Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS buds special is that they sound surprisingly good for open earbuds — they’re pretty close to what you get from Apple’s AirPods 3 for sound. On top of that, they support Sony’s LDAC audio codec for devices that offer it. Not too many cheap open earbuds have good sound, but these Soundpeats have good bass response and clarity. They’re also good for making calls and have a low-latency gaming mode.
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These days, it’s nearly impossible to get a TV without a bunch of “smart” streaming apps built in. But that’s not true of older TVs, and even newer ones don’t have all the top new services and simply don’t offer the faster performance of a dedicated video streaming box that plugs into an HDMI port. For under $50, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K (2021) boasts access to just about every online video service you can think of, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and hundreds more, at resolutions up to 4K. The Streaming Stick 4K Plus comes bundled with a step-up voice-enabled remote for $20 more.
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iOttie offers this MagSafe-compatible wireless car charger with a car vent mount. It has a strong magnet, so your iPhone stays on the mount, and it also has an integrated USB-C cable and cigarette-lighter power adapter so you’re ready to start charging out of the box. Note that iPhone “fast” charging caps out at 7.5 watts. It makes for a nice gift for anybody looking for a magnetic car mount for their MagSafe-enabled iPhone.
Infinity Lab is Samsung-owned Harman Kardon’s new accessories subsidiary and I like its InstantGo 5000 and InstantGo 10000 power banks, which come with an integrated Lightning cable for easy charging for iPhones. The larger 10000 mAh costs $20 more and is heavier and bulkier but it can charge most iPhones twice.
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This one isn’t a fun gift, but it’s the type of thing someone will use every day. This power adapter is one of the better values out there, with dual USB-C PD (power delivery) ports, a USB-A and a total of 65 watts of power. That will allow you to charge most devices, including some larger USB-C laptops. It uses GaN technology, which helps reduce the size of the charger, and the plug is foldable.
Some of our favorite gifts are just a little more than $50 — but often you will find these items discounted at close to or under $50. So keep your eye out for deals and decide if you’re willing to put a little bit of cash with that gift card to grab one of these indulgent finds, which could be a great option as a gift or for yourself.
Back in 2020, Tribit released the StormBox Micro, a budget version of Bose’s excellent SoundLink Micro speaker that delivered surprisingly good sound for its size and modest price. The second-gen StormBox Micro 2 offers improved sound and battery life, along with a charge-out feature that turns the speaker into a power bank for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. An integrated strap allows you to clip it to your backpack or your bike’s handlebars.
Like the original, it’s an excellent value and easy to recommend if you’re looking for a super compact portable wireless speaker. It does cost $60 but sometimes goes on sale for closer to $50.
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BioLite has several portable lighting options, and the Alpenglow 250 is one of the most affordable. It’s a portable “lantern” that has multiple modes and color options. As its name implies, it delivers 250 lumens of light in a few color options.
The step-up Alpenglow 500 (pictured on right) offers 500 lumens for $15 more. Both are rated for 5 hours of battery life on their high setting and up to 200 hours on the low setting.