Given the state of the economy and the likely number of tech-savvy recipients on your gift or Secret Santa list, spending a lot on gifts this season isn't in the Christmas cards. Yeah, you could be lazy and just get gift cards, a DVD or a video game as stocking stuffers, but what fun is that — especially since any movie buff or gamer is likely to have the DVD or game you think they don't have.
Here are a half dozen groovy gifts for less than a Grant.
Shhhh! Your gift gamer won't wake their parents, spouse, kiddies or other possibly disturbable non-players in their home — and they'll block out any and all yelling for them — while wearing these XP/Vista/Windows 7-compatible headphones with ear cups that somehow magically float slightly to accommodate different shaped heads. The recipient can chat with other otherwise quiet online players via the noise canceling microphone, and there's inline headphone volume and mute controls.
Annoy the cat or delight the kids (I vote to annoy the cat) with this 3.5-inch long RC motocross motorcycle with posable rider. It's got a rear gyroscope stabilizer flywheel to keep it upright in the roughest conditions and it'll even do wheelies.
For the frequent flyer on your list, this answers the angry oft-muttered question: "Where the #%&* is my luggage?" A red LED on the keychain fob starts to blink when a checked bag is within 100 feet — on the carousel… someplace. It also works in reverse — the luggage tag can be used to locate lost keys. The company also makes an L.E.D. It Be Easy2Pick (get it? L.E.D. It Be/Let It Be?) flashing luggage tag ($11.95) to help identify a bag once it's on the carousel.
These are instruments — guitars and drums — made out of plastic and not paper as the name implies, but still, cheap enough for little ones to wreck Pete Townshend style. There are six different guitars, straps and drum styles and four different amps, all perfect for boosting interest in learning to play without the hefty (and possibly wasted) investment in the real thing.
Price: $14.99 - $25
Sure, Kindles are light and portable, but what do you does one do when lying next to one's spouse in the dark — and your want to read? Unlike an iPad, Kindle needs light to be read, light supplied by this clip-on aluminum illuminator. It's got a white plastic mount with a rubber "bump" to hold but not scratch your Kindle. When you swing out the arm, the light goes on, and vice versa. A single AA provides 25 hours of light. This Kindle 2 model is currently out of stock, but the new Kindle version is available, as is a Nook version.
Speakers on nearly all laptops suck. Here are actually two similar solutions. While both use USB connections for audio and power, the Philips has a clamp to bind it firmly to nearly any laptop screen top — but taking it on and off (since the laptop won't close with it on) may be a pain. The Edifier fits in the hinge nook below the screen. Which sounds better? It doesn't matter — they both sound way better and louder than built-in speakers.