Graphic tablets have always been a niche category, but we've always liked using one because they're the tactile solution inbetween the mouse and finger-gesture input. Wacom is the big dog in the tablet market, but the price tags for most of their models are well beyond the typical mouse. You may find yourself needing one for school or simply because carpal tunnel has you in search for an ergonomic alternative, but don't have a lot of funds. Fear not, because we've got a few budget-friendly tablet options to offer...
G-Pen 4500 - $55: The G-Pen 4500 is compatible with both the Mac and PC and features hot keys and has 2000 lines per inch of resolution and 1024 level pressure sensitivity. Some might not mind the 4" x 5.5" workspace it provides. At that size it's a good starter for touching up photos and light sketching. It comes with a cordless mouse ($5 less to go without) which is a nice addition but only works on the tablet itself.
Vistablet Pen Pad - $42: The Pen Pad is a nifty little tablet in the sense that it's small like the Magic Trackpad but has a bigger workspace than the G-Pen 4500 with a shocking 6" x 4.5". It lacks the hot keys features but with a cheaper price tag and more portability, it's certainly a viable sacrifice. It also has a slightly higher resolution with 2048 lines per inch but the same 1024 pressure sensitivity. The PenPad can definitely stand up there with the big boys and has a minimalist charm to it as all it is and needs to be is a tablet pad.
MonoPrice - $48: Finally there's the MonoPrice has a lot going its way in the way of features and value. It has an area of (count it) 10" x 6.25" to work with, and no that's not the total size of the device. On top of that it crushes the others in resolution with 4000 lines per inches. It comes with a nifty pen dock and 5 replacement tips.
Pen One Design Inklet - $25:
If you already have a MacBook with the multitouch trackpad or a Magic Trackpad, this software (along with a capacitive stylus) works with what you've got. Handy, efficient and has several simple shortcuts that are easy to remember. It's effective and works with any computer app on your Mac and makes things extremely lightweight (especially with a MacBook Air.)
When it comes to tablets, there's good reason Wacom is considered one of, if not the best, option professionally amongst illustrators and artists. But if you're someone who doesn't need the latest or more recent professional features, the options above should suit more than well enough for the average user at a fraction of the price. If you're set on Wacom, then we can recommend the consumer priced model, Bamboo Tablet. It's compact, uses a battery-less pen and is definitely the best looking of all budget-compact tablets out in the market (note: you'll trade pressure sensitivity, as the Bamboo only offers 512 pressure sensitivity versus the more prosumer 1024 rating).