Ready yourself: Black Friday is upon us.
And Americans are ready to spend (a little) more than last year: Projected holiday gift spending in the U.S. is set to outpace 2013 by 3 percent, with the average person spending about $720 this year, according to the latest Gallup poll.
There are plenty of gifts out there that can enhance a house -- some help you save energy (and hence money), some make your home more beautiful through unique photographs, or more functional by organizing your kitchen.
Here are 10 great gifts for $150 or less that could make a loved one's home a little nicer and possibly a lot more functional.
Smartphone Projector: $25
Photo courtesy of Smartphone Projector
Give it to: The plugged-in YouTuber
Who needs to spend $400 or more on a flat-screen TV when you can spend much less on a cardboard box?
This smartphone projector by the London-based gift company Luckies magnifies the picture on a smartphone by eight times its original size and projects it on an opposite wall. The low-tech device made of cardboard, glass, and silicone is about 8 inches long. It needs an Apple or Android smartphone and some glue to assemble. It has a hole in the side for a charger cable and a vintage-inspired design printed on the outside.
The Laundry Pod: $100
Photo courtesy of The LaundryPod
Give it to: The frugal clean freak
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average washing machine uses approximately 41 gallons of water per load and the average American household does about 400 loads of laundry per year. If you're like most people, that means you're using -- and paying for -- 16,400 gallons of water on an annual basis, not to mention the monetary and environmental costs of using that much electricity.
The Laundry Pod, on the other hand, uses zero electricity and a much smaller amount of water. It can be used for small regular laundry loads or the delicates that need to be kept separate. The portable plastic gadget comes in white, gray or green. You just put the clothing items inside, add water and soap, close the lid and spin them with the Laundry Pod's hand crank.
WeMo LED Lighting Starter Kit: $99
Photo courtesy of Belkin
Give it to: The tech-savvy super-saver
Smart bulb brand WeMo claims that these LED light bulbs, or light emitting diodes, only use approximately 17 percent of the energy consumed by traditional 60-watt incandescents. Considering the average electricity cost-per-kilowatt-hour in the U.S. ranges from about 7 cents to 34 cents, according to the Energy Information Administration, many people are eager to make every penny count.
The company also claims the bulbs will last approximately 23 years (if you only use them for three hours a day).
But this LED starter kit is more than energy-efficient. It also allows you to control your lighting from anywhere using an Apple, Android or Kindle device and the free WeMo app.
AquaFarm Self-Cleaning Fish Tank and Micro-Garden: $60
Photo courtesy of Back tothe Roots
Give it to: The time-strapped foodie
Not everyone has the time to grow their own fresh herbs in a garden or keep up with an attention-hungry pet. The AquaFarm is part micro-garden, part fish tank and its sustainable ecosystem means there's very little work involved. The fish waste sustains edible plants you can grow from home -- like wheat grass, basil and lettuce -- and the plants keep the fish tank clean.
This DIY aquaponics kit comes with organic seeds, fish food, a water pump and a 99-cent coupon for a new fish.
"Refuel" Smart Propane Gauge: $50
Photo courtesy of Quirky
Give it to: The barbecue master
Regular grillers know how annoying it is to be caught without propane right before dinner. The Refuel smart propane gauge -- for the techie who has everything -- solves that problem by tracking the level of any standard 20-pound propane tank from smartphones via the Wink app. The app also sends alerts when the tank is running low.
Smartphones get their information via a magnetic sensor placed on the grilling cabinet, which connects to a circular base scale at the bottom of the tank that subtracts the tank's starting weight from the amount of propane it should contain.
Adam Frank LUMEN Flame: $48
Photo courtesy of Adam Frank
Give it to: The interior decorator
According to Zillow's most recent Digs Home Design Trend Report, statement lighting with a metallic finish is one of the top home design items for the end of 2014. And Brooklyn-based artist Adam Frank's LUMEN Flame oil lamp designs are dramatic.
They're made from acid-etched stainless steel with a modern, cylindrical base and a taller, nature-inspired silhouette that will create a shadow on the wall when lit. The six style options include a cedar tree, nesting birds, a magnolia tree, a pine tree, what appears to be a dried allium flower and a flock of seagulls.
Emsa Spice Box: $45
Photo courtesy of Emsa
Give it to: The space-conscious chef
The open-shelving kitchen trend seems like it's here to stay. Even the 2014 Kitchens of the Year as named by Kitchen and Bath Business magazine and House Beautiful had shelves that put it all out there. With all that transparency, organization is critical.
The Emsa spice box, which is made in Germany (hence the German labels pictured here), provides cassette-style spaces for six dried herbs or spices and is small enough to fit easily on a small shelf or in a drawer. It comes in white and black, and depending on where you order sometimes it comes complete with salt, pepper, paprika, curry, oregano and basil.
Bin Akebono All-in-One Kitchen Tool: $40
Photo courtesy of Bin Akebono
Give it to: The new homeowner
You remember when you first moved out on your own: The kitchen had a few hand-me-down tools, four plates, a bowl and some silverware, but nothing for preparing anything beyond ramen noodles. Setting up a home can cost a small fortune, and new renters and homeowners are always looking for ways to cut corners.
This colorful, bottle-shaped kitchen tool set by Japanese designer Bin Akebono is eight tools in one relatively simple design. It has a funnel, juicer, spice grater, cheese grater, egg masher, jar opener, egg separator and measuring cup. Plus, the funnel at the top can double as a vase for flowers.
VuPoint Photo Cube: $150
Photo courtesy of VuPoint Solutions
Give it to: The amateur photographer
The growing digital photography market is projected to hit $82.6 billion by the end of 2016, according to Transparency Market Research analysis, and that number won't all come from digital cameras.
Sleek photo accessories like the VuPoint Photo Cube will also undoubtedly be a popular gift choice this holiday season, for selfie mavens who want to take their photos beyond Instagram. This printer can turn an Apple or Android smartphone photo into a tangible print in seconds via a downloadable app or USB port. The printer can make a photo collage wall a reality in minutes, sprucing up the walls of your home.
The Dropcam: $149
Photo courtesy of Dropcam
Give it to: The new parent or pet-lover
Greg Duffy, CEO of the home monitoring system Dropcam, knows consumers don't usually get too excited about choosing comprehensive smart home or security systems. Instead, Duffy told the Wall Street Journal that the company wants people to connect and protect their homes "device by device."
The Dropcam offers a 107-degree field of vision, zoom feature and HD video recording for when you're out of the house or need to keep tabs on an infant or pet. You can live-stream the video for free to a smartphone or tablet, or you can pony up the extra cash for Dropcam's Cloud Recording Plan. Dropcam Pro, the latest and slightly pricier product in the company's lineup, has extra features like night vision and a wider camera angle.