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The 10 best holiday gifts for college students: Under $25, $50, and $100

Shopping for college students can be challenging. Here are a few tech-oriented gift suggestions that'll appeal to young adults.
Written by Nate Delesline III, Staff Writer

Notebook computers, tablets, and smartphones are essential pieces of technology for every student. So rather than highlighting those types of items, we've compiled a list of tech-oriented gifts for productivity and entertainment.

We know the pandemic hasn't been kind to everyone's bank account, so we'll provide a range of price points — under $25, $50, and $100. We also have something for you to consider if your budget is bigger. And, if your budget is closer to zero, scroll to the end for three free ideas for gifts you can give that any student or young adult might appreciate.

Gifts for $25 or less

These adapters, also called dongles, let users connect devices that otherwise don't "speak" to one another. This particular dongle allows you to use basic or high-end wired headphones or earbuds with iPods, iPads, and iPhones that have Apple's standard Lightning connector. As a small and often misplaced item, these make good stocking stuffers.

Good earbuds are an essential accessory of modern life. Consider gifting these wired earbuds that allow users to control music tracks and volume with an in-line controller. They come with a standard 3.5 mm plug and small and medium-sized ear gels. Skullcandy lists nine available colors on their website, though several were out of stock when we last checked.

If your gift recipient is in a shared living situation, the Echo Dot can create some ambiance. This small smart speaker allows users to add Alexa to any room. With Alexa, your recipient can play music, order food for delivery, or create calendar reminders. You'll pay half as much for the third-generation Echo Dot versus the latest fourth-generation model.

Gifts for $50 or less 

The Roku Express converts any TV with an HDMI input into a device your recipient can use with streaming services. It includes a streaming player, a remote control with pre-programmed shortcuts, and cables to connect everything. Roku allows users to watch free and subscription content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and many other providers.

During the pandemic era, spaces in our homes morphed into classrooms and offices — whether by choice or necessity. Consider complementing your student's devices with this wireless keyboard. They can connect up to three devices to the K480. This keyboard is compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome, and Android systems.

Also by necessity or choice, we're spending more time at home. This white noise machine can help your recipient better control their audio environment and create a space conducive to studying or sleeping. The LectroFan Classic has 20 digital and customizable sounds. It's available in two colors, black or white.

Gifts for $100 or less

Do you have someone in your life that's always misplacing keys or backpacks? With this gift, they can attach a Tile Mate to the item, then use a smartphone-based app to locate it within a 250-foot range. The tile is water-resistant and works with Apple and Android devices. It also works with Alexa, Google, and Siri.

Health experts recommend that we aim to get 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week. This wearable digital fitness tracker can help users track their progress toward that goal. It monitors heart rate and sleep and can even send reminders to relax. Linking the Fitbit to a smartphone allows your gift recipient to see and manage their health data. You can find the Fitbit Inspire 2 for as low as $59.95 right now.

If you're gifting to someone who values aesthetics and function equally, this item, available in three colors, has wood and stainless steel and accents. It also has an LCD screen, a digital interface, and preset water temperatures. Give the gift of time, as this kettle can hold water at a desired temperature for 45 minutes.

Able to spend more? Here's a versatile gift idea for less than $500

Electricity powers modern life. It's great to have options like this rechargeable portable power station when the power goes out or when great weather calls for a day or weekend outside. Since it's battery-based, users can safely operate it inside their home.

With a 300 watt output, the company says the River Mini can recharge or run 99% of household devices, including phones, tablets, or laptops. It has two 120 volt wall-style outlets, a DC car-style outlet, three USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and a wireless charging pad.

Free gifts: Non-commercial, non-tech things to share

Although gadgets are good, we know that often the best gifts don't come from a store. Or maybe after living through nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic, your budget is tight. Whatever the reason, consider any of these free gift ideas:


Unfortunately, the holiday season isn't always a joyous time for everyone. Calm, a digital app, offers a free trial with unlimited access to mental health tools and resources. If they love it, they'll be able to upgrade to a premium paid version, which adds guided meditations, a catalog of calming nature sounds, sleep stories for kids, and regularly updated content.

Personalized music playlist

People over the age of 25 may fondly remember when creating and sharing a mix CD or even cassette tape was a popular gift and pastime. Why not recreate that magic in the modern era? Streaming services like Spotify allow you to create and share playlists right from your phone, so this suggestion is not only free but easy to do on the fly and the sly for last-minute gifters.


Did someone give you sports memorabilia, video gaming accessories, or something else that you and your household just didn't love? Consider regifting. In addition to being free, if the item is in new or very gently used condition (bonus if you have the original packaging), you'll experience the job of decluttering your home and seeing someone else enjoy something you don't couldn't use. Etiquette experts say regifting is OK if you follow a few rules.

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