Text By C. Scott Wyatt


oliday giving is about our connections to friends and family. The smallest gifts often mean the most to us because of those connections. 

Some of the affordable tech gift ideas are fun and practical, for less than $30. 

My sister gives perfect stocking stuffers that I’ve kept around my office. Star Wars figures that are also USB memory sticks guard my programming books. Yoda and Darth Vader have even traveled with me to conferences. They serve as little reminders of family as I go about my day.

USB wristbands are also a fun yet surprisingly useful gift. I was a bit surprised the first time a student popped off a bracelet and plugged it into our classroom smartboard. The rainbow-colored silicone hid a standard USB memory stick. 

Students also seem to like vinyl waterproof stickers and skins for their tablets and laptop computers. The skins are larger stickers that cover most of the device. By combining skins with stickers, students create scenes on the laptops’ lids. 

When I was young, I envied classmates who owned calculator watches and Mattel handheld games. Nintendo’s Game & Watch handheld devices bring back memories of the ’80s and ‘90s with games including Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda.

Retro gaming company My Arcade produces 4-inch-tall arcade cabinet re-creations of the classics, from BurgerTime to Pac-Man. My Arcade also offers some fun handheld devices with either 8-bit or 16-bit games that resemble classic Nintendo and Sega console games. The Gamer Portable units come with 150 to 300 games. The Gamer V with 220 games has been popular with my daughters. That was $25 well spent. 

Another $25 gift idea is the Amazon Echo Dot. The Echo smart speaker offers good sound at a great price. Our youngest likes to tell her Alexa-enabled speaker what music to play at bedtime. At the same price as a good Bluetooth speaker, the Echo Dot offers outstanding value.

Finally, it might seem like the tech equivalent of giving socks, but people appreciate charging cords and battery packs for tech devices. Anker’s PowerCore line of batteries extend a phone or tablet operating time by 12 hours. Those could be important minutes during an emergency. 

Fun or practical, I enjoy finding tech gifts in my stocking and under the tree.