|Best for kids||Lego Super Mario Adventures Starter Kit||SEE IT||
Build your own Mario levels out of Lego, then bring them to life!
|Best for gaming||HyperX Pulsefire Haste Gaming Mouse||SEE IT||
A beautiful candle with a complex scent is always a great gift.
|Best for Kitchen||Cuisinart SG-10 Spice Grinder||SEE IT||
A spice grinder is a niche kitchen item, but would be a great gift for a chef expanding their horizons.
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Giving gifts on a budget can get very tricky. Those small purchases can add up if you plan to spread holiday cheer widely. Plus, Christmas is almost here! It’s easy to overspend on a last-minute gift when you’re under the gun. Whether you need cheap gifts for co-workers and distant relatives, plan to attend a White Elephant holiday party with a price limit, or need to keep the spending down this year, this list has you covered with affordable gifts that will still arrive by Christmas. After all, the best gifts under $50 can make someone just as happy as a present that breaks the bank.
- Best for kitchen: Cuisinart SG-10 Spice and Nut Grinder
- Best for stargazers: Antspirit Heat Changing Constellation Mug Coffee Mug
- Best for coffee lovers: Cometeer Flash-Frozen Coffee Pods
- Best for crafts: Wax Seal Stamp Kit
- Best locator: Apple AirTag
- Best kit for good vibes: Poj Studio Incense Kit
- Best for gaming: HyperX Pulsefire Haste Gaming Mouse
- Best for kids: LEGO Super Mario Starter Kit
- Best for home cooks: Maldon Sea Salt
- Best for home office: Logitech Studio Series Desk Mat
- Best water bottle: CamelBak Eddy+ Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
- Best for dog owners: Ruff Dawg The Ball XL
- Best portable charger: Anker Foldable Wall Charger
- Best candle: Paddywax Relish Lavender + Thyme Candle
- Best block charger: Kerf Wireless Charging Block
- Best for wordsmiths: MainEvent Felt Letter Board
- Best gaming subscriptions: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Nintendo Switch Online
- Best board game: Forbidden Desert
- Best 420-friendly: Shine 24k gold rolling papers
- Best for the backcountry (or backyard): Silipint Silicone Pint Glasses
- Best for DIYers: Milwaukee Stud 16-Foot Tape Measure
- Best speaker: Anker Soundcore 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The best gifts under $50: Our picks
Best for kitchen: Cuisinart SG-10 Spice and Nut Grinder
A spice grinder acts as a mini blender to blitz whole seeds for spice mixes (or whole beans for your coffee). It’s one of those niche little kitchen tools that can really amplify certain kinds of cooking. You can get a decent model for extremely cheap, but Cuisinart’s SG-10 is frequently rated among the best. It isn’t going to change someone’s life, but it’s a great way to gift someone a luxurious version of a gift for the kitchen for less than $50.
Best for stargazers: Antspirit Heat Changing Constellation Mug Coffee Mug
A gift that speaks to one passion is great. But one that incorporates two? Stellar! PopSci keeps a close eye on the cosmos, and we also appreciate coffee after some late-night stargazing. Antspirit’s Heat Changing Constellation Mug Coffee Mug allows you to combine the two. Pour your favorite warm beverage in the 12-ounce porcelain container, and behold: when it reaches 158 degrees Fahrenheit, the constellations will appear.
Best for coffee lovers: Cometeer Flash-Frozen Coffee Pods
Take the hassle out of someone’s morning routine, whether you’re living through blistering heat or numbing cold. I’ve wanted to try Cometeer ever since they popped up on my Instagram feed. The flash-frozen, recyclable brew capsules not only produced a more balanced and complex flavor than most bland instant coffees, but they are insanely easy to make. Toss a pod or two in a glass of liquid (hot or cold), and you’re ready to go. I threw two pods into my to-go container with about 14 ounces of water and ice, shook, and it was ready to drink. Cometeer grinds the beans at their freshest, brews the coffee into a concentrate, and then flash freezes it. If you’re looking for an elevated quick fix in the morning, Cometeer is the way to go. Plus, a $20 off your first order promotion lets you gift—to someone or yourself—a mixed roast box of 32 pods for under $50 (though the recipient will need to customize, pause, or cancel the subscription after the initial shipment).
Best for crafts: Wax Seal Stamp Kit
If you have someone on your list who sends letters (or likes the idea of sending them), a wax seal will make their correspondence more luxurious and theatrical. Both of those are qualities that I, for one, would look for from a piece of physical mail in 2022 and beyond. As you might expect, the price of a seal can get very expensive, but this stamp kit costs less than $20 and comes with a set of either nature- or night sky-themed designs; two things that we love here at PopSci.
One of my favorite things about having an Apple Watch is that it lets me ping my phone to find it when I forget where I last put it down. The Apple AirTag, a small disc-shaped GPS tracker, lets you use your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to find other things. There are obvious applications, like your keys or luggage, but it’s really an easy way to keep track of any important stuff. While a single AirTag costs less $50, you can easily expand the gift (or team up with a friend) and buy an accessory to hold the tag, like a keychain.
Best kit for good vibes: Poj Studio Incense Kit
An incense-making kit offers a double dose of relaxation: The process provides fun activity, and your incense serves up a little aromatherapy. This kit from Poj Studio, which specializes in traditional Japanese crafts made with sustainable practices, comes in three scents, including Yuzu and Sakura. This is a great crafty gift for people who don’t have enough time to do crafty things: Making incense only takes 30 minutes of active work. (The incense has to dry for a couple of days after, but they’re just left on a shelf). It may be just over the $50 line, but this gift is great because almost anyone can enjoy it.
Best for gaming: HyperX Pulsefire Haste Gaming Mouse
Gaming-related gifts tend to be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a great gaming mouse. In fact, most of the best esports mice tend to be fairly affordable because they’re relatively stripped down. The HyperX Pulsefire Haste is one of my low-key favorite mice I’ve reviewed in the last couple of years, thanks to its comfortable shape and lightweight design.
Best for kids: LEGO Super Mario Starter Kit
Building with LEGO is a meditative, fun, and creatively rewarding pastime for kids and adults. Playing Super Mario games can also be meditative and fun for both kids and adults. (Let me have this one, please). Thus, this Super Mario-themed LEGO kit, which lets you build and play your own levels, is a perfect fusion of fun, relaxation, and creativity.
If LEGO Mario doesn’t sound like a great fit for your gift recipient’s personality, there’s a whole range of small-to-medium-sized LEGO kits that cost between $25-50, from a TIE Fighter from Star Wars to a Bonsai. They’d all be great gifts under $50 for anyone who’s a kid at heart.
Best for home chefs: Maldon Sea Salt
Edible gifts are a hard needle to thread because they’re ephemeral. You don’t want to send something that’s going to be devoured in an instant. You also don’t want to send something that might take so long to eat that it might go bad. Maldon Sea Salt, a luxury “finishing” salt, which you put on top of your cooking to make it look and taste extra fancy, solves this problem. It’s not for chowing down but for letting your favorite chef make their cooking feel a little more special.
Best for home office: Logitech Studio Series Desk Mat
As I’ve made abundantly clear, I love XXL mousepads. It gives you room to stretch out and wave your mouse around without worrying about wandering over the edge of your mousepad. This year, more and more non-gaming companies have been getting in on the trend, including Logitech, which just released a set of colorful ones as part of its creator-focused Studio series. Each of the three Studio Series mousepads matches one of the colorways for Logitech’s new Pop Keys wireless mechanical keyboard, which I like quite a bit.
Best water bottle: CamelBak Eddy+ Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
I’m a huge fan of CamelBak’s water bottles, which are well-made and have that fancy nozzle that sprays water in your mouth when you bite down on it. This insulated stainless steel model is on the pricey side for a water bottle but that’s because it’s durable, making it a great gift for anyone who works out a lot or likes to carry a water bottle around to ensure they stay hydrated.
Best pet toy: Ruff Dawg The Ball XL
I heard about this Ruff Dawg toy from a friend who said he was impressed at how the ball, which is solid rubber, has held up during playtime with his girlfriend’s mini cavalier Bernedoodle. It comes in a few very bright neon colors, which makes it easy to spot in tall grass, and it’s apparently easy to clean. It checks all the boxes for a great gift under $50 for a person on your list who loves their dog more than anything … or your dog.
Best portable charger: Anker Foldable Wall Charger
Most people have a bunch of USB power bricks lying around from old phones, smart home devices, and any number of chargeable peripherals. Quantity is nice, but quality is better. The Anker Foldable Wall Charger is a compact plug that lets users charge three devices simultaneously. It comes with two USB-C ports and one USB-A port and works with devices from the MacBook Pro to the Samsung Galaxy S22, the iPhone 14, and more.
Best candle: Paddywax Relish Lavender + Thyme Candle
Paddywax is a fragrant, aesthetically pleasing candle and is one of those sub-$50 gifts that never goes out of style. For the person who loves and frequently buys candles, your choice can convey how well you know the person you’re shopping for. If they don’t … well, everyone could probably use more soothing smells daily. This Lavender and Thyme candle comes highly recommended for its fragrance and deep color. There’s a whole wide world of candles in every scent, color, and price you can imagine, so don’t be afraid to poke around and explore the space.
Best block charger: Kerf Wireless Charging Block
Wireless charging is slowly taking over from its corded counterpart. It’s extremely convenient for desk and/or bedside phone charging. Instead of buying another hunk of black plastic to keep on the nightstand, Pennsylvania-based tech company Kerf makes sustainable phone peripherals out of locally sourced wood. This wireless charger, which is basically just a handsome block of wood, works with any Qi-compatible wireless charging devices, including Apple, Samsung, and Google Pixel phones.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that this pick comes with a detachable USB-C cable, but doesn’t include its power supply, so your giftee will need to retask a power brick for the charger. (You can buy one with a charger included for an extra $20). Kerf will also do custom engraving upon request. Even if you end up spending more than $50, this gift is a really nice way to elevate a fairly mundane aspect of someone’s everyday life.
Best for wordsmiths: MainEvent Felt Letter Board
I’m going to say it: Letter boards are pretty fun. Rather than buying a picture or ornament with a generic saying on it, you get to decorate your home with a message of your own. This felt letter board is easy to use and fairly large (17 x 12 inches). There’s also a smaller and less expensive 10 x 10-inch square version if you need one to fit a tighter room (or budget).
Best gaming subscriptions: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate 3-month subscription or Nintendo Switch Online 12-month subscription
Buying the best gifts for gamers is so complicated, am I right? Luckily, there is a relatively inexpensive way to give the gamer in your life more games over the holidays. Xbox and Nintendo Switch feature services that allow you to play multiplayer games online and offer up some free games, making them relatively foolproof gifts under $50.
Nintendo Switch Online grants you access to a curated library of retro games from two of Nintendo’s classic consoles, the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. (There is also a more expensive Nintendo Switch Online “Expansion Pack” that adds games from more classic consoles, but you will need to give a Nintendo eShop gift card from your person to buy it themselves).
My favorite of the three for Xbox consoles and Windows PCs, is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which provides access to a Netflix-like library of over 100 games you can download and play whenever, including every Microsoft-published Xbox exclusive.
All of these services are fairly essential, so you may find that they already have active memberships, but you’re still sparing them the maintenance cost of the console, even if that’s the case.
Best board game: Forbidden Desert
One of the Popular Science team’s favorite board games, Forbidden Desert is a cooperative experience for between two and five players, who must work together to explore an inhospitable desert to unearth treasure from the ruins of a forgotten city swallowed by the sands. Players systematically excavate each space on the board to find parts of a flying machine to win while contending with limited resources and obstacles like sandstorms that may block their path and slow the dig. If Forbidden Desert doesn’t sound like your cup of tea—though, c’mon—a board game is generally a great gift for families and people looking for a new group activity that gets you away from screens.
Best 420-friendly: Shine 24k gold rolling papers
Look. You could use these SHINE rolling papers made of edible 24k gold for all kinds of things. I, personally, am recommending you give them to someone who smokes cannabis and lives in a state where it’s currently legal. The gold doesn’t really enhance the experience beyond its aesthetic appeal, but that’s not the point.
Best for the backcountry (or backyard): Silipint Silicone Pint Glasses
Broken glass is annoying to deal with at best and dangerous at worst, which is why Silipint’s Silicone Pint Glasses are a wonderful gift. The shatterproof “glasses” are 100% food-grade silicone, so they are completely safe, available in some cool psychedelic colors, and a fun-meets-functional way to cut down on the amount of plastic campers might use on their trip. Plus, pint glasses are the perfect size for beer, water, and everything in between—whether you’re remembering to leave no trace or just out back on the patio.
Best for DIYers: Milwaukee Stud 16-Foot Tape Measure
We highlighted the Milwaukee Stud because it’s extremely long and extremely durable. I think that, explicitly or not, most people assume tools will last and last, but that isn’t always the case, especially if you use them a lot and don’t invest in the best. The Stud could be a “forever pick,” though, even for a master craftsman.
Best for music lovers on the move: Anker Soundcore 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
It’s always nice to have the best portable Bluetooth speaker on hand, just in case some friends come over or you want to take your party outside. The Anker Soundcore 3 is our budget portable speaker of choice, with 24 hours of battery life, an IPX7 water resistance rating, and decent sound quality. There’s always room to spend more money on great audio, but this is a great gift under $50 for anyone who occasionally wants to turn a gathering into a party.