How to get a smart home on a budget

Going smart doesn’t have to mean going broke

It's 2017, and that means that having a regular home is, well, kind of boring. You want a fun, exciting, customizable smart home, but the coolest smart home products, like the Nest smart thermostat, Philips Hue or Amazon Echo usually come with a high price tag.

So what if you want a smart home but don't have the funds to buy the high end stuff? Good news - there are plenty of smart home devices on the market that don't cost an arm and a leg. While they might not have the best features or look the most stylish compared to more expensive kit, they certainly get the job done.

Here's how to turn your home into a smart home on a budget.

The smart lights

GE C-Life

How to get a smart home on a budget

Smart light bulbs, like the super popular Philips Hue, are pretty pricey, so trying to trick out your home can quickly decimate your wallet. But then there's something like GE's C-Life smart LED bulbs. Not only are they absurdly cheap, but they have a pretty good feature set.

You don't need a hub or anything like that. You just use your phone to dim or control the lights, which includes the ability to group a bunch of them together. GE also includes pre-selected lighting scenes to make it easier for you. There is one catch though: these use Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi, which means you can't control them when you're not home. That doesn't seem like a major tradeoff when you look at the price, though.

Money saved (vs Hue): $57

$13 each, | Amazon

Alternative: Ikea's smart home collection if you want a fuller solution.

The smart heating

Ecobee 3 Lite

How to get a smart home on a budget

The Nest thermostat is the current king of the smart thermostat castle, but it's also a little too pricey. The Ecobee 3 Lite, on the other hand, is a good budget pick that you can expand upon when you have a little more cash to spend.

The Ecobee 3 Lite has all the smart features you'd expect from a fancy thermostat. You can control and schedule temperature settings, and it can use local weather reports to help optimize its temperature. It also pairs with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo and a host of other services, like IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings. Plus, you can buy separate room sensors so that you can get room-specific temperature readings and adjustments.

Money saved (vs Nest): $80

$169, | Amazon

Alternative: The Momit Home Thermostat if you're in the UK.

The security cam


How to get a smart home on a budget

Security cams like the Canary smart security system can cost you hundreds of dollars, but what if there was one for well under 100? There is! It's the EZVIZ Mini O home security camera, which is small and cute and can be easily hidden. Plus, it can record at 720p.

The O also has night vision, real-time two-way audio and a wide-angle lens. And oh, it's little magnetic stand can be flipped backward and be stuck on a wall. Sneaky, sneaky!

Money saved (vs Canary): $140

$59, | Amazon

Alternative: If you don't need the two-way audio, the regular EZVIZ Mini.

The personal assistant

Amazon Echo Dot

If you're sucked into Apple's HomeKit ecosystem, your best bet is going to be Siri, for obvious reasons. But the Amazon Echo is still the king of the smart home speakers, and the Echo Dot is a wonderful little bite-sized version. It still offers great Alexa capabilities in a package one third of the price.

The Dot doesn't have a full-sized speaker, but if you need a little bit more audio you can connect it to your existing speakers via either Bluetooth or audio jack. And of course, you'll get the full voice-based capabilities of Alexa at your disposal.

Money saved (vs Echo): $100

$49.99 | Amazon

The hub

Wink Connected Hub

When you get a hub, you're getting a singular device and app to control your smart home. You can get your smart home devices to speak to each other, too, like getting your smart lights to turn on when your smart lock locks the front door.

However, smart home hubs can cost a good amount of cash, and even then they can sometimes not support all of the different platforms and products out there. The Wink Connected Hub supports a good deal of them, and it also supports a good amount of connectivity standards, like Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more.

Money saved (vs Samsung SmartThings): $30

$69, | Amazon

The smart TV

Google Chromecast Ultra

How to get a smart home on a budget

Say you still have a dumb TV that does nothing but shoot pretty pictures into your eyes. You want to make it a little more intelligent, but you don't want to splurge on something like a Roku or Apple TV, where do you turn? Well, how about that Chromecast Ultra?

The Ultra will give you 4K streaming and HDR, which the Apple TV cannot. All you have to do is stick it into one of your TV's HDMI ports and power it up and you're good to go. You can 'cast' your favorite shows and movies from whatever streaming app you'd like.

Money saved (vs Apple TV): $80


Alternative: Amazon's Fire Stick, if you don't need 4K and HDR.

The smart baby monitor

iBaby Monitor M2 Pro

How to get a smart home on a budget

Your baby's health and safety is your top priority, but a high end baby monitor like the Nanit Smart Baby monitor might be out of your budget. The iBaby Monitor M2 Pro offers a good alternative option for a lot less money.
It has 720p video recording that's triggered by motion sensing, but what makes it really useful is motion and sound alert notifications. There's also two-way audio and temperature and humidity sensors to let you know if your baby's room might be getting too uncomfortable for them.
Money saved (vs Nanit): $179

Everything else

TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug

Want to give the other devices in your home a little intelligence boost? Then get a smart plug.

Sure, this'll only let you switch a device on or off, but you can do it from the convenience of you couch. With the TP Link Wi-Fi smart plug, you can also set away mode, which will let you turn off devices when you're not home. You'll never forget to unplug the iron now. Also, the TP Link comes with support for both Alexa and Google Home.

$29.99, | Amazon

What budget smart home kit have you been using? Let us know below.

Shop for recommended smart home tech on Amazon

Nest Cam Outdoor
Nest Cam Outdoor
Philips Hue starter kit
Philips Hue starter kit
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo

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