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Finding the right gift for a new graduate in your life is tricky, especially if you’re on a strict budget. The usual techie ideas like tablets and wearables are expensive, and at the opposite end of the spectrum are loads of corny (and often useless) personalized trinkets. But there are budget-friendly gadgets and accessories you can buy that new grads will find practical, convenient and even fun. We’ve compiled everything in our grad guide under $50 so you don’t have to scour the internet for presents that fit in your budget.
Amazon Fire Stick 4K
Streaming is the way to go for music, movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment, and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K is one of the best and most portable streaming devices available. Setup is as easy as sticking it into your TV’s HDMI port, connecting it to a power supply and streaming to your heart’s content. All the major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Disney+, have apps on Fire TV OS, and Prime members have access to all of Prime Video’s content as well. The Fire TV Stick 4K also comes with an Alexa voice remote, so grads can simply command the stick to search for the content they want to watch. It’s undoubtedly one of the most useful gadgets you can gift that won’t break the bank.
The easiest way to use Alexa at home is through the Echo Flex. It’s a tiny smart speaker that plugs into a wall outlet and lets you speak to Alexa just as you would with any of the larger, more expensive Echo devices. It’s not for playing music like the Echo or the Echo Dot; it’s primarily for using Alexa voice commands to check your calendar, control smart home devices and use Alexa skills. However, it does have an audio-out port, so you can connect it to a more capable speaker if you have one. Any grad can easily find a place for it in their studio apartment or single room, thanks to its low profile.
One can never have enough charging cables, and Anker offers some of the best with its Powerline+ lineup. We particularly recommend the Powerline+ II Lightning cable for Apple products and the Powerline+ USB-C cable for devices that have the newest connectors like the Google Pixel 4 or the newest iPad Pros.
Most of the Powerline+ cables are made with braided nylon, which prevents them from breaking or fraying as easily as others do. The Lightning cable, like many of Anker’s other Apple accessories, is MFi certified, and the USB-C cable supports fast charging and SuperSpeed data transfer up to 5Gbps. Grads will be extra happy with the six-foot versions of these cables because they won’t be confined to a corner when they need to use their devices and charge them simultaneously.
RFID wallets are an easy way to keep your credit and debit cards protected from scammers. Buffway’s slim RFID-blocking wallet is an affordable gift that even those who love designer accessories can use. It’s quite thin and yet still has enough space for seven cards, and it includes a middle section for cash. Those who already have a larger wallet or purse they love can stick this inside of it and know their cards will be protected. It’s also a solid option for those who prefer minimalist billfolds.
If your grad spends a lot of time on the computer, a mouse is a more comfortable and flexible upgrade to a trackpad. Logitech’s M720 Triathlon wireless mouse packs a lot of premium features into a portable, affordable device. It can connect to up to three Windows or Mac computers at once via a unifying receiver and Bluetooth. You can switch seamlessly among all three devices, and you can even copy and paste text and transfer other data from one machine to another using Logitech Flow.
Its single AA battery will also last two years before it needs replacing, making this mouse one your grad can set up in seconds and use without thinking about again for a long time. We also like that it strikes a good balance between ergonomics and portability: It won’t take up much space in a backpack, but your hand won’t hurt after hours of use either.
While battery technology has improved over the years, it’s still a stressful feeling when your smartphone dies in the middle of a long day. RAVPower’s 20,000mAh power bank provides enough juice to power phones, tablets, headphones and other accessories many times over, and it does so safely with a UL-certified battery cell and iSmart technology protections. This particular battery pack has three USB ports (two USB-A and one USB-C with PD) along with a Lightning port and a micro-USB port, so it can charge almost any mobile device your grad may have. They’ll also never have to wonder how much power the pack has, because the LED indicator clearly shows the percentage of battery remaining.
Most people, grads included, don’t think about buying a good umbrella until they’re stuck in a rainstorm with a bad one. Repel makes a number of solid umbrellas, and its Windproof travel model is a great everyday carry. Weighing one pound and measuring 11.5 inches, it’s compact enough to fit into a backpack or handbag easily, and its nine reinforced fiberglass ribs make it stronger against whipping winds than most cheap umbrellas. It also has a button on the handle for easy opening and closing. Best of all, whereas cheap umbrellas twist into metal pretzels after one or two bad storms, Repel’s umbrella keeps working time and time again.
A quality Bluetooth speaker doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Tribit’s XSound Go is, according to internet consensus, the best budget Bluetooth speaker you can get right now. It’s a good gift for a grad who’s constantly playing music from their smartphone or laptop speakers -- for only $30, you can upgrade their listening game significantly. The XSound Go is clearer and louder than competitors in the same price range, and it has a killer 10.5-hour battery life. It’ll easily fit into a bag if they want to take it to the park or a party, and its IPX7 rating means it will survive a dunk in the pool.