You don't have to drop hundreds of dollars on smart home stuff to be able to do things like control your music and/or lights via a smartphone app and/or by voice. There are plenty of cheap smart home products for under $50 you can get to update your smart home little by little. As long as you choose quality brands and products that can all communicate with one another through a platform like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you can make your smart home as simple or detailed as you want.
Add more Alexa
Amazon's entry-level smart speaker makes the list because it's as functional as the Amazon Echo while small enough to blend into any room you set it in, letting you extend Alexa voice control through more of your home. Amazon is currently offering Echo Dot bundles with a TP-Link smart plug or two Sengled smart bulbs for an extra $15 to $20 — a great deal that shows off how much utility the Echo Dot can provide.
Add Alexa to your TV
Amazon's Fire TV Stick is an affordable way to turn any TV into a smart TV. The remote is designed to navigate apps, control media, or trigger Alexa with the built-in microphone. Add your favorite streaming services and have Alexa at your fingertips whether or not you own other Amazon Echo products.
Great standalone smart bulb
One multicolor bulb can make all the difference in adding some personality to a room in your home. LIFX is excellent because its smart bulbs don't require a hub to connect with Alexa or Google Assistant. Simply plug it into any lamp or light socket in your house, and you're off to the races.
Google Assistant is probably baked into the phone you use every day, so it makes sense to stick with Google for your home smart speakers. The Google Home Mini is a colorful and compact smart speaker that lets you connect and control smart home products through the Google Home app. While Amazon's smart home ecosystem is a bit broader than Google's, you'll get better integration with Chromecast, YouTube, and other Google products and services you may rely on.
Used strategically, a single LED strip can make any room in your home instantly more futuristic and stylish. Each strip is sold with a Wi-Fi controller and power adapter that gives you full control over color customization, scheduling, and more.
Smart control for outdoor lights
This TP-Link smart switch lets you add smart controls to the lights in your home without replacing each bulb with a pricy smart bulb. You can schedule and set everything up in the Kasa app, and it works with either Google Assistant or Alexa for voice control and grouped commands.
Works with the Alexa app
Amazon's Smart Plug does not require you to own an Echo speaker to use voice commands — it connects directly to the Alexa app and lets you control lamps, fans, or appliances and set schedules from your phone. It's a great option if you're sticking with the Amazon Alexa ecosystem or buying for someone who already owns an Amazon Echo speaker.
Aukey's Wi-Fi Smart Plugs are very easy to set up with the Aukey app and work well with Alexa and Google Assistant. It's an excellent upgrade for any lamp or small appliance that you want to control with your voice. It's a simple smart plug that doesn't block the second outlet at all.
Monitor your home remotely
The Wyze Cam Pan is a genius little camera that offers extraordinary quality and functionality for a low price. You get 1080p streaming video on the Wyze Cam app that can be set up with motion and sound alerts to your phone, or you can plug in a microSD for continuous recording or capturing cool time-lapses. It's a full-featured wired camera that connects to your Wi-Fi network and can be set up virtually anywhere.
It's okay to upgrade your smart home bit by bit
All of the smart products on this list are inexpensive, yet they can make a big difference in any room of your home, allowing you to control things like lights and music from your phone or even your voice. And they include items that are compatible with two of the most popular smart home platforms, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Whether you're down with Google Assistant or Alexa, a great option is the Aukey Wi-Fi Smart Plug pack. Smart plugs let you set up and control up to four traditional devices remotely with the Aukey Home app or using voice commands with your preferred digital assistant. It's a great option if you're looking to start to automate items you already own, like a table lamp or fan, coffeemaker, or multicooker.
Speaking of lighting, another top recommendation is the LIFX A19 Mini Color Smart Bulb. This small bulb is a perfect accent piece for any room and is super easy to set up with no hub required like you might find with more complex smart bulbs. All you need is the LIFX app, and you can get the party started with a couple of taps on your phone or an Alexa or Google Assistant voice command.
Of course, at the heart of any smart home system is a versatile smart speaker you can place in a central location to play music, answer queries or check your calendar, and speak to turn lights on or off, initiate playback of your security camera on the TV, and more. The Amazon Echo Dot is an excellent, unobtrusive device that you can hide in a bookcase or in a corner on the kitchen counter and use to control any Alexa-enabled smart gear. Or, if you prefer to stick within the Google ecosystem, the Google Home Mini (new ones known as the Nest Mini) is the ideal companion to kick off your smart home without putting a massive dent in your wallet.
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Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.