While the expensive gadgets like the iPad Mini and Microsoft Surface grab the headlines among the technical elite as the must-have Christmas gifts of 2012, there is a broader trend in the United States towards declining middle-class incomes, job uncertainty, career setbacks, and financial setbacks. Many households are struggling to recover from the great recession and economic malaise that has marked the last four years. Some people are wondering how to celebrate the holidays when they are flat broke.
For these American families, the most expensive tech toys are out of reach, especially when they need Christmas gifts for multiple people. These households will be looking at gadgets that cost $100 or less. Fortunately, if you are on a tight budget, Christmas doesn’t have to consist of stocking-stuffer gifts. Here are four affordable tech toys for $100 or less:
1. Wi-Fi Radio. You can get freestanding radios that connect into your home Wi-Fi network and can play streaming music and talk from Internet radio stations and other devices on your network. You can listen to programming from Pandora, Sirius XM Internet Radio, and other providers. The Grace Solo Wi-Fi Internet Radio & Media Streamer GDI-IRA500 sells for $99.99 at Microcenter.com.
2. E-Reader. While the world has gone crazy for tablet computers, e-readers make a low-key, but practical tech gift. They provide access to thousands of books, and they provide for a more comfortable reading experience than many traditional tablets. The Nook Simple Touch e-reader costs $99 and has a battery life of two months. You can buy it online or at your local Barnes and Noble book store. The physical store is an underrated asset that contains something as rare as Bigfoot: free human help and advice from someone in your community who speaks your language.
3. Roku Player. Streaming video services are becoming a competitor for traditional cable television. At less than $100 for a basic box, a streaming video player could enable the recipient to save serious money on his or her television programming. The downside would be that the recipient would need to have a fast Internet connection, some technical skills, and money to subscribe to Netflix or another Web-enabled content delivery service. Amazon.com has the Roku HD Streaming Player for only $59.99.
4. Retro Game Consoles. The video games of Generation X childhood are back in a big way as plug-n-play consoles. They are perfect for casual gaming. The RiteAid pharmacy chain had the Atari Flashback 4, Sega Arcade Motion, and Sega Arcade Classics video games on sale for $29.99 through December 1, 2012. For the price of a Norelco Shaver, these inexpensive games are a no hassle way to give the gift of retro gaming.
5. MP3 Player. For Christmas 2012, the venerable iPod Shuffle is only $49 online at Walmart.com. Refurbished models are $20 less. There are about two dozen different MP3 players at the online version of Wally World, and all sell for less than $50.
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