Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Shopping on a Budget Edition

In case you haven’t been following the news over the past few years, the economies of most countries around the world are failing. This means a lot of people will be tightening their belts this year as they seek to hold onto what little they have left in the way of assets.

This means those extravagant, expensive gifts such as televisions and laptops bought in previous years may be out of the question this holiday season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still buy a gadget which will brighten the heart of any geek you have in your family. It’s all about choosing your gift wisely in order to remain under your budget.

Headphones & Speakers

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An expensive desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or MP3 player is pointless without the right audio equipment. Buying a set of headphones or speakers can make all the difference to the geek in your life. And you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so.

High-end speakers and headphones are fantastic, granted, but who has $100-and-up to spend on the latest ‘Beats by Dr. Dre’ or Altec Lansing speaker systems? Logitech and Creative are recommended for budget 2.1 systems, while capsule speakers outperform for their size and stature. Sony, Sennheiser, and JVC all come highly recommended for affordable but classy headphones.

Smartphone Cases & Covers

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You may not be able to afford to buy your loved ones the latest smartphone such as the iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but you can help them deck their handset out in style. Covers for smartphones cost just a few dollars but can help make them stand out from the crowd in a big, bold way.

The options available are virtually limitless. Classic one-color designs which give a smartphone a classy look and glossy feel; pink, shiny, sequined affairs for the most glamorous girls; retro covers to make a modern-day phone look like it belongs in the 1980s; a design for the zeitgeist, from Angry Birds to fashion labels.

USB Flash Drives

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OK, so a USB flash drive isn’t exactly the most inspiring or exciting gift someone could open on Christmas day. But it beats socks and toiletries. It’s also an essential weapon in any computer user’s arsenal. Most people will be able to back up their most important data – photos, documents, bookmarks – to a flash drive without any problems. And doing so regularly could save a great deal of anguish should their hard drive ever fail.

Prices of USB flash drives have dropped so much that you now need only spend a few dollars to get 8GB, and doubling the price will pretty much double the amount of memory.

Tablet/eBook Reader Accessories

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An iPad or Android-based alternative is an expensive item by anyone’s standards. A Kindle or eBook Reader is more affordable, but still possibly out of range for most people in these times of austerity. Thankfully there are accessories aplenty available for this hardware. All of which cost just a few dollars but which make great gifts.

These range from covers and cases, through sleeves and skins, to reading lights and power adapters. Oh, and wireless keyboards which gives tablet owners the option of turning their device into a notebook. All completely unnecessary but desirable additions for these mobile form factors.

Video Games

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Gamers come in all shapes and sizes these days, and more importantly, in all age groups. Which makes video games a worthy purchase for all who like to spend time staring at a screen for hours at a time. Assuming they actually own a console or high-end PC, of course.

The latest releases on PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii retail at anywhere between $30 and $60 from new. Which is relatively cheap for an item that can literally provide hours of entertainment. But there are bargains to be had by buying older games. All three home consoles have now matured, so there are classic games released around launch that can be picked up for just a few dollars. Or you can buy pre-owned software and lower the price even more.

Blu-rays

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Blu-ray players are still relatively expensive to buy. Unless you’re also a gamer and have the luxury of one being built into your PS3, which, incidentally, is one of the cheapest top-end Blu-ray players you can buy right now. But the actual Blu-ray movies themselves have come down in price considerably, meaning they’re a viable gift idea for anyone on a tight budget.

Even the latest Blu-ray releases are highly affordable, retailing at around $20. Box-sets can be more expensive, but classic and highly watchable series such as The Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter are all available for under $100. Just check that the recipient actually has the hardware in place before you start updating their movie collection for them.

Conclusion

As you can see, you don’t have to spend a fortune in order to give someone a present from the technology category. So what if none of the above compete with a new 50-inch LED TV or iPad 2, I’d be ecstatic to receive any of them wrapped up and sitting under the Christmas tree. And your bank manager will stay nicely contented as well.

Image Credits: TheDarkThing, kaeru.my, emilydickinsonridesabmx, Nedko, bfishadow, Rad Jose, Michael_Spencer.