Best Valentine's Day Gifts Under $50

Give your honey something they can really use, from trusty kitchen tools to comfy pillows

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valentines day gifts Illustration: Lacey Browne/Consumer Reports, iStock

Sure, flowers are nice to look at and a snazzy piece of jewelry might be a welcome gift, but for many, coffee is essential and a good night’s sleep is sacred. Or maybe your homebody honey has been dying to upgrade their game in the kitchen after binging one too many episodes of “Top Chef.” So give your loved ones something they can really use from CR’s ratings, whether that’s a trusty coffee maker, comfy pillows, or top-rated cookware. These Valentine’s Day gifts under $50 will make your loved one’s life easier, and they’re easy on the wallet.

Coffee & Tea Time

Milk Frother

Aerolatte To-Go

Gift the at-home barista in your life a new toy: This handheld milk frother is one of the most popular models on the market, a reputation that held up when CR staffer Daniel Wroclawski put the Aerolatte To-Go through its paces. He found that it whips up plenty of foam using all the kinds of milks he tried, and it’s a breeze to clean. The Aerolatte doesn’t include directions for frothing cold milk, but it didn’t have a problem frothing hot or cold, plant or dairy.

For more options: Best Milk Frothers

Insulated Mug

Zojirushi 16 oz.

Want to keep things hot this Valentine’s Day? This slim mug is in a league of its own in terms of pure performance. It keeps drinks hot for an astonishing 13½ hours—6 hours longer than the closest competitor in our tests, earning a top rating of Excellent for temperature retention. The screw-on cap is easy to clean, with two removable gaskets. Our testers found the mug easy to open with one hand: Simply press a button on the side and the lid pops up so that you can drink out of the plastic spout. You can also lock the lid, a nice feature if you have young kids who are the type to tinker with a mug filled with scalding hot coffee. The slender design of the mug means it’s likely to fit in car cup holders.


For more options: Best Insulated Travel Mugs

An extraordinary value, this inexpensive drip coffee maker beat dozens of pricier models in CR’s battery of tests. Brew performance earns an Excellent rating, and it can be programmed to have piping hot fresh coffee ready in the morning.

For more options: Best Coffee Makers Under $50

The Primula Burke Cold Brew Coffee Maker PBPBK-5101 is the most inexpensive cold-brew coffee maker in our ratings—and it’s one of the best. It receives an Excellent rating for convenience. This Primula comes with a glass carafe, and most of its parts are dishwasher-safe. It’s the only model that calls for a full 24-hour brew time, but you might find the results to be worth the wait.

For more options: Best Cold-Brew Coffee Makers

For your tea-loving lover, perhaps: This Amazon Basics kettle is made of stainless steel, and it’s one of the least expensive kettles in our tests. It’s small, though, holding just 4 cups of water—the least of the kettles we tested. It’s among the fastest to bring our testing standard of 4 cups of water to a boil, clocking in at just under 4 minutes and earning a Very Good rating in our time-to-boil tests. This kettle is a little harder to clean than some of the other models we tested. The warranty lasts one year.

For more options: Best Electric Kettles

Cookware & Kitchen Tools

Okay, you have to appreciate the pun in the name of the Great Jones Holy Sheet pan. But does it live up to its name? Yes. The Great Jones earns a Very Good rating in cooking evenness, and it heats up quickly, so our chicken dinner was ready in no time. It’s fair to middling on our durability test, but it cleans up nicely. The Holy Sheet Pan is available only on the Great Jones website.

For more options: Best Sheet Pans

The Chefman was the only waffle maker we tested to snag a CR Best Buy designation. For far less money than most of the competition, this machine churns out evenly browned round waffles. It garners a Very Good rating for its color-range settings, meaning there’s a remarkable difference between waffles made on the darkest setting (brown and crispy) and lightest setting (light and fluffy). It has an indicator light to let you know when the waffles are ready, the option to store it vertically to save space, and a batter cup for precise portioning. However, the handle and latch get uncomfortably warm during cooking, despite the “cool touch” claims, so you may want to use an oven mitt when opening and closing the lid.

For more options: Best Waffle Makers

Is it a frying pan or an action hero? Joking, of course, but The Rock by Starfrit is a star in our cooking evenness test—our pancakes come out nicely browned every time. It earns a Very Good rating in our food-release test, too, which means fried eggs and pancakes will slide out of the pan easily. The handle stays cool but didn’t hold up as well as some other pans we tested in our pressure test. That said, this pan’s nonstick surface held up well in our durability test. It can withstand an oven temperature of only 350° F or less.

For more options: Best Nonstick Frying Pans

Lodge has been making cast-iron frying pans in its Tennessee foundry since 1896. It’s one of the few surviving iconic American brands. This 12-inch Lodge cast-iron pan is top-notch at browning scallops and earns an Excellent rating for searing a steak. Baking is only so-so, though. Heating evenness is also mediocre. It weighs 7.8 pounds, which is about average.

For more options: Best Cast-Iron Frying Pans

Chef's Knife

Henckels Premio 8” Chef’s Knife

Henckels has been making knives in Germany for nearly 300 years, and its expertise in design is on full display with this knife. The Permio’s handle is contoured with no sharp edges, resulting in a knife that’s extremely comfortable to hold. It also excels at force transmission from handle to blade, which means you don’t need to exert as much effort when cutting.

For more options: Best Chef’s Knives

The Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A is a 3-cup chopper that combines great value with solid performance. In our tests, it was particularly adept at chopping almonds and onions, and grating Parmesan cheese, though other choppers were better at puréeing. This model is ideal if you have limited space—it takes up as much counter space as a postcard.

For more options: Best Food Processors and Choppers

Despite the name, the Instant Zest 8 Cup is actually a 4-cup rice cooker. (The “8 Cup” refers to cooked rice; most rice cookers go by dry measurements.) Like most of the rice cookers in our ratings, this one scores a Very Good rating for cooking rice. One taster on our trained panel said the brown rice made in the Zest had a good texture and a nice bite. However, many tasters found that while the white rice was cooked through, it often came out a little sticky.

For more options: Best Rice Cookers

Bed & Bath

Give the gift of cool, sweet dreams: The Beckham Luxury Linens Hotel Collection pillow has a 100 percent cotton cover and a filling of 100 percent polyester gel-fiber. The manufacturer claims that the materials in the Beckham pillow keep it cool. It aces our test for breathability and scores top marks for resiliency, which means it will hold its shape well over time. Plus, you get two pillows for this price—and even better, they’re on sale right now: Make sure to click the on-page coupon to get 40 percent off the current price.

For more options: Best Pillows

Help your loved ones pamper their rough winter skin with a top-performing humidifier. It’s not all about looks with this whimsical Crane Owl model. On just about every measure, including moisture output and noise, it earns an Excellent rating. It’s convenient to use, though not being able to get a hand into the tank for cleaning is a drawback. The 250-square-foot claimed coverage area is on the high end for a small-room model.

For more options: Best Humidifiers Under $50

Bidet Attachment

Luxe Bidet Neo

What could be more romantic than helping your loved one save on toilet paper? The Luxe Neo 120 bidet attachment is your best bet. It’s a bare-bones sprayer with two dials—one to turn on the water, the other to adjust water pressure. One user in our study who disliked the water pressure said it was “too powerful.” Some users commented that the clasp on the model that attaches to the toilet seat created a space between the bidet and seat that was difficult to clean. Most users said this model helps them conserve toilet paper, cutting their usage by about half. One owner went even further: “I don’t use TP anymore.”

For more options: “Bidet Review: ‘I Have Less Toilet Paper Anxiety’

With excellent cleaning performance, this Fairywill toothbrush is great value. It has a built-in timer to help encourage the dentist-recommended 2-minute clean time. It has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery but lacks a waterproof charging base, so keep an eye on the cord used to charge the unit.

For more options: Best Electric Toothbrushes

Beard Trimmer

Remington Vacuum Beard & Stubble Trimmer (MB6850)

Does your person need a little help keeping that facial hair tidy? This model includes a vacuum feature that appealed to users in a recent CR study, but it requires more maintenance than some other models because the vacuum chamber needs to be emptied. Some users said this model and its attachments felt a little flimsy, and some with thick or coarse hair said it didn’t work well with their hair texture. Overall, however, users were satisfied with the trimmer’s performance.

For more options: “The Best Beard Trimmer for You

Electronics

Gaming Headset

Turtle Beach Recon 50

This gaming headset features inline controls that let you adjust the volume and mute the mic. The mic can also be removed if you wish to use the headphones to listen to music and movie soundtracks. The included PC splitter cable provides access to headphone and mic jacks on computers. The headset is compatible with Mac and PC, PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One, and mobile devices that accept a 3.5-mm audio plug, but you have to choose the correct model for your computer or console. It’s worth noting that this wired model has cables that descend from both ear cups, as one user in our recent study said, which can be a nuisance.

For more options: “How to Choose a Great Gaming Headset

This over-ear wireless model is usually available for around $50—a steal, given the superb noise-canceling performance and above-average sound quality. The BT-300ANC features integrated controls for calls, volume, and playback, and the ear cups fold in for easy storage and transport. According to Monoprice, the battery will run for 8 hours between charges with both Bluetooth and noise cancellation turned on. (CR doesn’t test battery life in headphones.) You can keep the music going even longer by switching off Bluetooth and using the detachable audio cable, which is included.

For more options: Noise-Canceling Headphones on a Budget

For the price, these earphones deliver impressive sound quality, beating some competitors that cost more than three times as much. The JBuds Air have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life and come with a carrying case that will recharge them for an additional two cycles. Other features include support for various digital assistants, three switchable EQ modes to change the tonal balance of the sound, and according to JLab, water resistance. (We don’t test that feature.)

For more options: Best True Wireless Earphones

Ergonomic Mouse

ZLot Vertical Gaming Mouse

This mouse places the forearm, wrist, and hand in a “handshake” position, greatly reducing stress in the forearm. When properly oriented, it reduces wrist extension, too. Note, however, that the natural position with the front facing forward requires slight extension. The model features 11 programmable buttons, five dots-per-inch settings, and a matte finish that feels comfortable under the fingers and palm. On top, you’ll find a mini joystick, handy for gamers but potentially annoying for others because it springs into action with a slight bump. No left-handed option is available.

For more options: “The Best Ergonomic Mouse for You

The latest version of the Echo Dot features radically revamped styling—a spherical look that’s a shrunken version of the larger and more expensive Echo. In terms of smart speaker performance, the Dot hasn’t changed much from its hockey-puck-like predecessor, and it’s a good value because it still works about as well as more expensive models. That’s because most of Alexa’s artificial intelligence work is done on Amazon’s cloud servers. Our testers find the newest Dot sounds better than the last generation, with slightly clearer highs and a bit more bass. However, the Dot is still best for listening close-by to a podcast rather than filling a room with music. It comes in a $60 Kids Edition as well, with Panda and Tiger graphics and a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+.

For more options: Best Smart Speakers