How to create a smart living room for under $250

Smart home technology is more than just a buzzword these days. With our lives increasingly transformed by the internet of things (IoT), it seems everything from our light bulbs to our thermostat is becoming connected. For consumers, this means that almost every new product boasts some kind of smart technology that promises to make our lives faster, simpler, and better with home automation.

As anyone who’s recently thought about renovating their home knows, the costs of implementing smart home technology can quickly add up. However, by being shrewd about which brands and products you invest in, you can quickly and easily make your home “smart,” even if you’re starting from scratch.

Getting started with smart home automation

Are you thinking about bringing your home out of the dark ages with smart home devices? Trying to get things started with home automation can be intimidating, but a smart home doesn’t have to be filled with crazy gadgets and robot devices. It’s as simple as swapping out everyday products with devices that fulfill the same role, but are connected to each other in order to improve home automation. By setting up a system of triggers and responses that accomplish smalls tasks, you can save yourself time, energy, effort, and even increase home security.

Choosing a Voice Assistant

The first step when automating your home is to choose your smart home hub and platform. The most popular ones include Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. When deciding which one to use as the base for your smart home, consider things like whether you prefer one system over the others, what technology you already own, and what activities you want to automate. For instance, if you’re an Amazon Prime member and listen to Amazon Music regularly, you may find more value with Alexa. Or, if you want to sync your Google activity including Gmail and Chrome, then Google Assistant may be the right ecosystem for you.

All three are compatible with a huge host of devices, so you won’t be starved of good options. For this roundup, we’ve decided to focus on Alexa-enabled devices, as they’re relatively inexpensive and there are a multitude of options for each product category.

The Beginner’s Kit

Ready to dip your toe into the world of smart home automation? Below are the essential Alexa-enabled smart home products that will help you take your home from a sorry state to state-of-the-art.

+ Customize Your Bundle
Echo Dot
$39.99
Mini Smart Plug (2-Pack)
$18.88
Fire TV Stick
$39.99
Smart Bulb Starter Kit
$73.09
Smart Security Camera
$23.99
$195.94
Total:

Echo Dot smart speaker (2nd-gen) – $39

smart home automation for beginners

A wireless smart speaker is the absolute first investment you should make when transforming your digs into a smart dwelling. A speaker is the hub through which you can play music, ask questions, set alarms, and control all your other compatible smart home devices. One of the most popular voice-controlled speakers around is the Echo Dot, created by Amazon for use with virtual assistant Alexa. It’s compatible with over 10,000 smart home devices, including smart lighting, door locks, doorbell, smart thermostat, garage door, home entertainment systems, and even your home security cameras. Blending decent sound quality with minimalist design, the Echo Dot is available in black or white.

While the full lineup of Amazon Echo products is vast, the Dot is by far the most affordable option and can accomplish everything you need for basic home automation. Plus, it’s currently on sale for $39, regular $49.

Buy Separately

TECKIN Smart Plugs – $19

smart home automation for beginners teckin

This is an easy upgrade for someone who doesn’t want to overhaul their home’s hardware, but still wants to add smart wireless functionality. Simply insert the TECKIN Smart Plug in a wall outlet and plug in your devices. Just like that, you’ll be able to control your electronics remotely by asking Alexa to turn the plug on or off. Similar to the Wemo Light Switch, you can even schedule the plugs to activate at certain times of the day, for example to start any appliance in the morning. An inexpensive (if somewhat simplistic) automation solution, the two-pack is available on Amazon for just $19.

It should also be noted that these third-party smart plugs will work without a hub, assuming you have a smart mobile device, so they can be sold as a stand-alone option if you don’t want to buy an Echo.

Buy Separately

Philips Hue Smart Bulbs – $89

smart home automation for beginners phil

When you begin investing in your smart home, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Take the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs, for example. This product enables you to control the amount of light in your home automation directly at the source. Dim the bulbs with a word for a beautiful soft white lighting experience or program them to brighten as you wake up in the morning. These bulbs are compatible with Amazon Alexa for voice control, though they can be controlled remotely using the Philips Hue App on your smartphone as well, making it an ideal way of adding extra security to your smart home while you’re away. 

Philips claims that its bulbs will last up to 15 years or 15,000 hours, whichever comes first, so there’s no need to worry about replacing them in the near future. If you like the Philips line of products, you can also expand your home lighting system with accessories like the Hue Dimmer Switch, Hue Tap, or Hue Motion Sensor. A 4-pack of Philips Hue Smart Bulbs will cost you $89 on Amazon, and are regularly $99.

Buy Separately

Fire TV Stick for media streaming – $39

smart home automation for beginners fire tv stick

Movie buffs, this one’s for you. Access over 500,000 movies and TV episodes at the click of a USB drive with the top-rated Amazon Fire TV Stick. Though the picture quality isn’t as advanced as that of the Fire TV, the Stick is a more affordable option that provides all the substance (with a little less style). Though this streaming smart device does not connect directly to your smart home hub, it’s still an essential part of any connected home.

Use the compatible wireless  to search for and find content, play music — even order a pizza. The Fire TV Stick is also portable, meaning you can keep bingeing on your favorite shows when you travel.

Buy Separately

Wyze Cam 1080p – $26

smart home automation for beginners wyze

One of the things that draws us to the idea of smart home automation is the desire to keep tabs on things while we’re away. However, security ecosystems like Blink or Ring Video doorbell camera can cost upwards of $400 to set up. For the beginner smart home investor, a product like the Wyze Cam 1080p, priced at just $26, will suit you just fine. Controlled by Alexa, this Wi-Fi security camera shows you real-time video of what’s happening at your home via the Wyze app. If the dogwalker or delivery man knocks on your door while you’re out, you can still communicate with them remotely using the built-in speaker and mic designed for two-way communication. The app also sends push notifications to your phone when the camera senses motion, ensuring you’re always in the know about the security of your home.

Buy Separately

Looking for more great device deals? Find Amazon coupons, Roomba Deals, and more from our curated deals page, or follow us on our Deals Twitter for daily savings.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and choose what we cover carefully and independently. If you find a better price for a product listed here, or want to suggest one of your own, email us at dealsteam@digitaltrends.com.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for February 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart home speaker is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
Smart Home

Alexa, dim the lights: How voice assistants can help with Valentines Day

If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, you can sweep your sweetheart off his or her feet this Valentine's Day with these romantic, mood-setting tips. Your sweetie will be impressed.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Deals

Take $250 off the HP Spectre x360 laptop with this Presidents’ Day sale

If you're hoping for something more powerful that will last more than a few months, you'll probably need to invest $1,000 or more. Unless, of course, you take advantage of the Presidents' Sale on the HP Spectre x360 13t.
Computing

Looking for a new laptop? These 5 notebooks are on sale through Presidents’ Day

If you're ready to ditch your aging notebook, you can score some fantastic Presidents' Day savings right now on Microsoft's Surface Pro 6, Dell's XPS 13, HP's Spectre x360, Lenovo's Yoga C930, and Dell's G5 15 Gaming laptops.
Gaming

Buy a new Switch console and get a $35 eShop gift card at some retailers

Multiple retailers are currently offering the Neon Blue and Red Nintendo Switch console with a free $35 eShop gift card. The system still costs the standard $300 and includes Joy-Con controllers and the dock.
Deals

Under Armour drops prices on Gore-Tex Jackets, Pants, and backpacks

The UA Outlet Exclusive sale is going on right now through Monday, February 18. During this time, you can get up to 40 percent off a huge range of outlet items, including Gore-Tex rain gear.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for February 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Deals

Walmart drops a killer Instant Pot deal for Presidents’ Day weekend

With the Walmart Presidents' Day sale going on right now, you can actually pick up the Instant Pot Lux60 6-quart programmable pressure cooker for just $69 -- $30 off its normal price.
Smart Home

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents’ Day sale

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents' Day sale. Whether you're taking your first step in configuring a smart home or expanding to every room, Walmart has excellent sale prices for all the key components.
Deals

Keep your MacBook safe and dry with an Under Armour backpack for under $50

Under Armour is having a huge sale this weekend to help you on your quest for a better backpack. The UA Outlet Exclusive sale is going on now through Monday, February 18th, offering great discounts on stormproof backpacks.