We’re halfway through August, which means many college students are already on campus — and the rest will be joining them by Labor Day. But whether you’re buying for college students, middle schoolers or anyone in between, there are plenty of great gadgets you can get without breaking the bank. Oh, and if you’re just buying a gift for yourself, that’s OK, too.
We’ve pulled together some of our favorite products available for $30 or less. All of these have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by CNET editors. Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
Read more: Best back-to-school headphones
Roku and Amazon have a boatload of video streamers available in the under-$50 price range. But if $30 is your cutoff, this entry-level Roku is your go-to choice. It delivers pretty much every video service you can think of, from Netflix to Hulu to countless more obscure apps, as well as the free-with-ads Roku Channel, too. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more entertainment for your TV at this price.
Read more: Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which streaming device is best?
If you don’t want a smart speaker listening in on your conversations — or just want a rechargeable speaker that travels with you — the Sony SRS-XB01 is a great choice. It sounds great for its size, and it’s splashproof, too.
Read more: See our picks for the best mini Bluetooth speakers
Want to catch the roommate in the act of stealing your ice cream from the fridge? This Alexa-compatible Wyze model is a solid choice, and it only costs $26.
This handy Anker 5,000-mAh battery pack is about the size of a MacBook power supply, and it can charge two USB-powered devices simultaneously. Best of all, it doubles as a wall charger, and the AC prongs fold up for easy travel. It’s now available in white and lipstick red for $30, too.
Read more: See our picks for the best battery packs for iPhone
These days, one or more (or all) of the USB ports on laptops are USB-C. But there are still plenty of old-school rectangular USB-A ports out there. The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive splits the difference perfectly, sporting both USB-C and USB-A plugs on one thumb drive. And now the 128GB model is priced below $25. (This is a great gift for anyone with a recent USB-C iPad Pro, since the autumn iPadOS upgrade will add support for external storage.)
Ben Fox Rubin/CNET
Amazon sold a zillion of these during its Prime Day sale, when the price dipped as low as $22. But now the smart speaker’s price is back to its usual price of $30 (down from its list price of $50). Just make sure that you’re not buying it for someone attending a school where these are already in every dorm room.
Buying for someone who prefers Google Assistant to Alexa? Google’s most affordable smart speaker is also half price at Walmart.
There are plenty of cheap smart plugs out there, but the Belkin WeMo Mini is one of the few at this price that deliver the hat trick: compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri (HomeKit). In other words, this plug convert any lamp in the dorm — or home — into one that’s voice-controlled.
Yes, this product breaks our $30 budget by just a bit. But if you want solid sound quality in a full-size wireless headphone at a budget price, you can’t do better than the Tribit.
Looking for additional gear you can snag for even less? Check out our favorite products available for $25 or less below.
Originally published earlier in 2019. Updated to verify pricing, and add back to school angle.