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Let's face it: During the holidays, our budgets often get a little tight. There are parties to host, travel expenses to cover, and, of course, gifts to buy. But not every party can be extravagant, not every holiday vacation can be exotic, and not every gift can be exorbitant. We're thoughtful spenders, after all, and thoughtful spenders spread their resources.
At Reviewed, we never stop thinking about smart spending. Everything we test—from refrigerators to reusable straws—is viewed through the eyes of a savvy shopper looking to maximize their dollar. So this holiday season, we at Reviewed decided to put together a list of some of our favorite products for under $50. They're affordable, yes, but they're not cheap, and that's a very important distinction.
So kick back and relax—no one's in a better position than us to help you spend your money wisely. These are the best gifts under $50 of 2018, according to Reviewed:
1. For the one who’s hard to shop for: A classic gift delivery
If you're the type of person who just read that and thought to themselves, "Fruit? As a gift? Really?" then clearly you haven't experienced a Harry & David Royal Riviera pear.
Here's what you need to know: These are life-changing pears. They'll ruin pears for you. You're not just buying someone pears, you're robbing them of their ability to enjoy normal pears forever. After you eat one of these, every single firm, mealy, garden-variety grocery store pear will crush you with disappointment.
I mean, you can eat them with a spoon—that's how succulent they are. Any confusion resulting from being on the receiving end of this gift lasts precisely the amount of time it takes to open the box and take a bite of one of them. I promise.
2. For the one who uses your Prime account: Their own 3-month membership
Whether it's your brother, your sister, your friend of seven years whose name is Brendan, or your roommate, some folks have a bad habit of coasting on other people's Amazon Prime accounts. If this sounds like someone you know, you might want to consider getting Brendan (or whoever) three months of Amazon Prime for just 39 bucks.
Not only is it a practical gift, but it also sends a message to your sibling/cousin/ungrateful friend Brendan/roommate that it might be time for them to spread their wings and start paying for things like free 2-day shipping and new episodes of The Tick on Amazon Video.
So this holiday season, show the one you love that it's time to grow up, Brendan.
3. For the one who wants to save the planet: A set of reusable straws
One of the easiest things we can do to treat our planet more responsibly is to cut down on our single-use plastics. For this reason, our very own Courtney Campbell recently set out to find the best reusable straws you can buy. After extensive testing, we concluded that this set of four glass straws from Hummingbird was the best bet for most people.
They look great, they're durable, and they won't change the flavor of what you're drinking. They're a thoughtful, practical gift for the person in your life who wants to save the Earth, one baby-step at a time.
4. For the one who's always on the go: The perfect travel mug
Earlier this year, we threw a handful of the most popular travel mugs in a good ol' fashioned cage match. When the dust settled, this stainless steel mug from Zojirushi emerged as the champion on our list of the best travel mugs you can buy.
We love how easy the Zojirushi mug is to use, and its temperature-retention abilities absolutely floored our tester, Sarah Zorn. The Zojirushi is available in a ridiculous amount of colors, too—perfect for the person in your life who's always on the move.
5. For the one who needs more sleep: The most comfortable eye mask out there
My colleague Jessica Teich is not only a full-time editor here at Reviewed—she's also a full-time dog mom. Simply put, when her day is done and her puppy Redford is finally down for the count, she appreciates a good night's sleep.
Jessica recently put together a list of the best sleep masks you can buy, and the winner—the Nidra Deep Rest sleep mask—is a total game-changer. Its adjustable velcro strap keeps the mask securely in place all night long, and the foam pads rest comfortably on your face without being intrusive.
"Each time I wear it," Jessica wrote, "I wake up the next morning well-rested—and in complete darkness." This holiday season, give someone you love the gift of Zzzs for less than $15.
6. For the serious home cook: The best cast iron skillet ever
Cast iron cookware provides one of the most reliable and rewarding cooking experiences one can hope to have, but deciphering all of the marketing hoopla that comes with it can be a daunting task. That's why we put them all to the test and compiled a list of the best cast iron pans you can buy right now. The winner? None other than industry-favorite Lodge.
Our only complaint about this 10-inch, pre-seasoned pan is that it doesn't come with a lifetime warranty from Lodge. Fortunately for the person you're gifting the pan to—and maybe for you—it's such a durable beast of a pan that it'll most likely stand the test of time and become a family heirloom.
7. For the beginner home cook: A good chef's knife at a great value
We had two goals when putting together our list of the best chef's knives: to identify the overall best chef's knife (in this case, the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro), and to identify the chef's knife with the best value. In the end, we concluded that the ~$45 Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-inch chef's knife provided the most bang for the buck.
It's certainly not the sturdiest-feeling knife in the world, but the blade is tough as nails and sharp enough to handle just about anything. In addition to how impressed it left us, this knife's got over 5,000 reviews on Amazon with an average 4.8-star rating. This is the perfect knife for both beginner cooks and folks looking to pad out their knife collection.
8. For the one trying to be more organized: A super-popular bullet journal
I'm gonna be perfectly honest: I have no idea what the heck "bullet journal organization" is. I do know, however, that I can't go more than two days without hearing someone breathlessly extol the system's virtues.
This guide to bullet journaling I found online seems like a helpful place to start, and the people behind the guide recommend picking up this Leuchtturm hardcover bullet journal.
In fact, the more I research bullet journaling, the more I gather that this particular brand of bullet journal is the best place to start—it's currently sitting on an average Amazon rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 with over 2,200 reviews under its belt.
Look at it this way: If you get it for the person in your life who loves to make checklists, there's a really good chance they'll remember to send a thank you card!
9. For the fitness fanatic: An armband perfect for exercising
As folks who run or spend time at the gym will attest, a person's smartphone is often the central nervous system of any workout routine; we rely on our phones for music, GPS guidance, and workout tips.
This affordable armband from Tribe is designed to fit every phone, and it's currently enjoying a 4.2-average user rating based on a ludicrous 16,500 reviews. How's that for consistency?
We love the armband's secure, water-resistant design, the amount of colors it's available in, and the piece of mind that comes with its lifetime guarantee.
10. For the one who needs to de-stress: Our favorite aromatherapy diffuser
When we were testing and photographing several of the best essential oil diffusers on the market, our office smelled awesome.
Our overall pick for the best diffuser is also one of the most affordable, and it comes from InnoGear. My colleague Sarah Kovac loved the InnoGear's colorful, customizable LED glow, as well as the diffuser's locking top cover, which made it easier to move the diffuser without spilling water.
If the person you're shopping for enjoys creating calming, relaxing atmospheres at home, there's a good chance they'll love the gentle bubbling of an essential oil diffuser.
11. For the one who needs their java: An awesome coffee subscription
Ben Keough put his caffeine tolerance to the test earlier this year when he tried seven (yes, seven) online coffee subscriptions. When all was said and done, MistoBox topped his list.
You can browse his jittery, caffeine-addled findings in his roundup of the best coffee subscription services, but I'll cut to the chase: Ben loved the efficiency of MistoBox's website, its blazingly fast shipments, and the responsive customer support he encountered throughout the process.
If you've got a friend who loves to drink coffee, why not give them a one-month trial run from MistoBox?
12. For the one bitten by the travel bug: A classy toiletry bag
Look, I know that in the grand scheme of things it's not very important, but listen up: Your loved ones need to stop packing all of their vacation toiletries in plastic freezer bags.
Herschel specializes in simple, fashionable bags, from backpacks to duffle bags. This swanky-looking toiletries bag will keep all of your friend or family member's bathroom products in one easy-to-stash place—and it'll look damn good in the process.
It comes in an array of colors, but they all feature a fabric liner and waterproof zipper. With over 400 reviews under its belt, the average Amazon user rates it a 4.7. Time to ditch the sandwich bag, folks.
13. For the one who needs some inspiration in the kitchen: A guide to cooking everything
This isn’t your traditional book of recipes. In fact, you’re not gonna find any recipes in here at all. Instead, The Flavor Bible is a compendium of just about every ingredient you can imagine with lists of complementary flavors and why these pairings tend to work.
I love The Flavor Bible because of how it encourages me to engage with my food rather than work my way passively through a basic recipe. It’s like kindling for culinary inspiration; while most cookbooks ask me politely to stay on the trail, The Flavor Bible invites me to stray off the beaten path and take risks. At the end of the day, isn’t that what cooking is all about?
Anyone who enjoys getting creative in the kitchen will come to swear by it. For more cookbook gift ideas, our editors' gift guide for the best cookbooks.
14. For those of us who can’t live without Alexa: A great, affordable Echo
Even though the Echo Dot didn't come out on top on our list of the best Amazon Echo smart speakers, we love how affordable and versatile it is, especially for people who are looking to ease into in the smart speaker lifestyle for the first time. That's what we named it the best affordable Alexa smart speaker.
Newcomers to the scene will appreciate the Echo Dot's simplicity, and full-blown Alexa Heads will appreciate having another device to place somewhere in their home. The newest model has a fun new design, too.
15. For the one who wants a better home-brew: A cult-favorite pour-over coffee maker
My favorite way to brew coffee is with a Chemex. It's somewhat of a meditative process: Arrange the filter, get the water to the appropriate temperature, and monitor the water level as you pour over the grounds. Admittedly, it's not for everyone, which is why I recommend starting with this $41, six-cup, model. If you want to learn more about how it works, check out our guide to different types of coffee makers.
If your loved one considers themselves a coffee connoisseur, they're in for a treat: Chemex makes a damn fine cup of coffee. It's also one of the most aesthetically pleasing objects in my kitchen.
16. For the binge-watcher: The best affordable streaming device
The Roku Streaming Stick+ isn't our pick for the best media streaming device you can buy—that honor goes to the Roku Ultra. But it is our pick for the most value-packed streaming device on the market.
The Streaming Stick+ supports 4K HDR functionality, and its speeds were close to those we experienced with the Roku Ultra. This makes it a fantastic choice for folks who already own a 4K TV but don't have a reliable streaming device to go with it.
17. For the wine lover: A new set of timeless glasses
Glassware is ephemeral; no one likes to think of themselves as clumsy, but sooner or later we all drop our favorite wine glasses (hopefully in the sink and not the shower), ending their delicate existence much too soon.
If you happen to be shopping for a wine connoisseur, giving the gift of glassware is one of the most practical things you can offer. This set of six red wine glasses from Miko is one of the best-rated of its type on Amazon, and for the cost, the bang-for-your-buck factor is stellar. For more wine-related gifts, see our resident wine enthusiast Alicia's list of products every wine-lover needs in their home.
18. For the constant tinkerer: Our favorite multitool
When my coworker Jonathan Chan put together his list of the best multitools you can buy, he walked away with two winners in mind: an "overall best" winner and a "best value" winner. The Gerber MP600 was his pick for the multitool with the best value.
For roughly $40, the MP600 offers needle nose and regular pliers, pinch cut wire cutters, both a serrated and a fine-edged knife, the all-important can- and bottle-opening tool, a cross point, a ruler, a wire crimper, and small-, medium-, and large-sized flatheads.
Jon loved the pliers' wide span as well as the MP600's overall toughness. It's simply a great, budget-friendly multitool for folks who spend a good amount of time tinkering, fixing, and tweaking.
19. For lovers of tabletop games: Splendor
This summer, a group of friends and I gathered at a beach house in Rhode Island for a week's vacation. On the days it rained, we were all forced to entertain ourselves indoors. That's how I was first introduced to Splendor, a delightful, easy-to-play tabletop game that enchanted my friends and me for hours on end.
The premise of the game is simple: Collect raw gems, turn a profit, and become nobility. You can compete with up to three other people, but the game is just as fun with only two playing.
20. For the one who's always listening to music: A speaker for the shower
In this writer's humble opinion, no company in the Bluetooth speaker game delivers quality products as consistently as JBL, and this mid-range waterproof speaker is a great example why.
Its compact size, sturdy clip, and water-resistant design make it a great gift for friends and family members who spend time outdoors, and although we haven't tested this particular model here at our office, we feel that JBL has earned a reputation among our staff as being a reliable manufacturer of speakers that sound superb and connect to pretty much all devices with ease.
Editors note: Only the red model is available for under $50 right now.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.