12 Gifts Under $30 for Tech-Savvy Grads


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As a high school or college graduate walks across the stage to take that diploma, don't be left scrambling to buy an appropriate gift. Cash always works, but for graduates addicted to smartphones, electronics, and the latest technology, consider these picks under $30. Each is perfect for a grad heading to college or embarking on a first full-time job, graduate school, or a gap year.


The latest smartphones can survive drops and even a washing machine cycle, but batteries that last through a whole day of heavy use are still rare. A portable charger is inexpensive, supplies additional hours (or days) of power, and is convenient to carry around. Try the Anker PowerCore+ portable charger ($10 on Amazon) or the RAVPower mini external battery pack ($10 on Amazon). Both are inexpensive and rank high with Amazon users.


For graduates continually posting photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, a selfie stick is obvious and troublesome at times. A fisheye lens with a round, distorted effect makes a more fun gift and easily clips over a smartphone camera lens. A 3-in-1 universal clip lens (starting at $2.90 from GearBest) also includes a macro lens for extreme close-ups and a wide-angle lens.


Lights, laptops, and phone chargers continue to draw energy unless unplugged after use. Help a college student save on utilities with the Belkin Conserve Socket ($18 on Amazon). The energy-saving socket plugs into any outlet and turns off after 30 minutes, three hours, or six hours, helping conserve energy and even prevent accidental fires.


Some laptop users still prefer the feel of a traditional mouse for scrolling, clicking, and navigating. For studious grads who need an extra boost for online research and writing papers, the Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball ($27.49 at Walmart) makes a worthy gift. The mouse's curved shape supports the hand comfortably, and the laser trackball allows for smooth control.


Despite the advent of laptops, tablets, and phablets, writing has not gone extinct. Give a set of colorful stylus pens for use on paper or touch screens. The Teviwin 2-in-1 pen ($9 on Amazon) comes in a set of 12. Each pen has a soft rubber head that works on touch screens and a smooth ballpoint pen on the other end.


No matter what path a graduate is taking after commencement, give a quality Bluetooth speaker to provide a soundtrack. The Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Speaker ($28 on Amazon) is easily portable, water resistant, and perfect for small dorm rooms and apartments. More than 4,800 reviews give it an average of 4.6 stars.


Make sure the graduate works comfortably in front of any Mac or PC with Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 ($30 at Best Buy). The raised, curved shape, as well as palm rests, provide better wrist alignment and support than a regular flat keyboard. Nearly 900 reviewers give it an average of 4.5 stars.


With a pair of wireless headphones, a grad can listen to music while rushing to class or the office without the hassle of tangled cords. Bluedio Turbine T2S wireless headphones ($30 on Amazon) have enough power to play 40 hours of continuous music. They feature rotating ear cups for storage, four color options, and the latest Bluetooth 4.1 technology.


Give a grad a hand with the Gadget Grab Universal Tablet Stand ($5 at Bed Bath & Beyond). This set comes with two stands for propping up a mobile phone and a tablet in a vertical position on the grippy polymer surface. It aids activities such as studying, reading, watching videos, video chatting, and cooking while following an online recipe.


USB charging cables are cheap and plentiful, which may explain the easy breakage after a few weeks stuffed in a backpack or purse. Don't leave a graduate with flimsy, fraying cables. Give the 9-inch Titan Loop, which is wrapped in two layers of flexible, extra-strength steel. It comes with a standard USB on one end and an Apple Lightning connector ($30) or micro-USB ($20) on the other.


If you're not sure what sort of gadget or gear a graduate will need, take the safe path and get a $30 gift card to the iTunes Store or Google Play Store. The graduate can splurge on new apps, level up with in-app purchases, or buy music, games, and ebooks for studying.

Photo credit: Catherine Lane/istockphoto


Google Maps and Waze have revolutionized navigation, but mobile apps can distract drivers who repeatedly pick up their phones to check the directions. Cellphone use while driving is also illegal in many states. The WizGear Air Vent Mount ($7 on Amazon) clips to a vent on the car's dash and uses a strong magnet to securely hold a smartphone in place, letting drivers quickly glance over without taking their hands off the wheel. This mount is a top seller on Amazon, earning an average of 4.5 stars from more than 4,800 customers.

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