Sometimes, your family and friends put gifts on their wish list that, as a savvy shopper, you know won't offer them the best value possible. For example, while many people will request an iTunes gift card during the holidays, you'll learn that an Amazon card could actually provide the recipient with far more music in the long run. So instead of springing for, say, the new iPad mini, what should you buy in its place? Below are our top 10 items you shouldn't buy this holiday season, and 10 alternatives to consider instead.
They want an iPad mini?
Give them an iPad 2 instead.
Despite being a more recent release, the new iPad mini packs the same 1024x768 display that's found in the iPad 2. In fact, everything about the iPad mini, from its screen resolution to its performance, is comparable to the iPad 2; the only difference is that it's smaller. And yet, at $329 for the 16GB model, the iPad mini costs $10 more than a refurbished iPad 2 16GB WiFi Tablet. We thus recommend opting for the latter, which comes in immaculate condition from Apple with the same 1-year warranty, as well as more screen real estate for media streaming, all for $10 less than the mini.
They want a NOOK HD?
Give them a Kindle Fire HD instead.
Make no mistake, the NOOK HD is a perfectly capable tablet with very similar performance and features to its rival, the Kindle Fire HD. However, when it comes to the ecosystem of each, Amazon has the upper hand. The store has more consistently offered aggressive pricing on media like eBooks and MP3s, it has a more robust app marketplace, and Fire owners can stream Prime-related film and TV whenever they want. Moreover, Barnes & Noble is experiencing a slowdown in its core business of book-selling, which financially affects the NOOK and its supporting services; meanwhile, Amazon is enjoying record-breaking sales of its Kindle devices. As a result, Amazon's Kindle Fire environment will continue to flourish and will likely remain stronger than that of the Barnes & Noble NOOK.
They want an iPhone 5?
Give them an iPhone 4 or 4S instead.
While it's now possible to find deals on a refurb iPhone 5, when it comes to saving money, the iPhone 4 and 4S are still your best options. Like the iPhone 5, both models can run iOS 6, however, the 4S now retails for $100 less. We've even seen deals that drop to as low as $1 (with a 2-year contract). Meanwhile, the iPhone 4 is always available for free with a contract, and both previous generations see more deals than the iPhone 5 does.
They want a handheld game console?
Give them an iPod touch instead.
Because of the smartphone, there are numerous small devices that now seem unnecessary, like the handheld game console. Sure, there will always be Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita fans, but a device like the WiFi-enabled iPod touch now satisfies the desires of most casual gamers with its endless library of games, which now includes popular console franchises like EA's FIFA 13 Soccer, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty. Price-wise, these apps are considerably cheaper and are more readily discounted than games for the Nintendo 3DS or Playstation Vita, so your giftee can save money in the future when buying new titles.
They want a Starbucks Gift Card?
Give them a Keurig K-Cup Machine instead.
Instead of giving a coffee aficionado the traditional Starbucks gift card, we recommend picking up a Keurig K-Cup machine, because it could potentially save them money in the long run. The Keurig B130 In-Room K-Cup Brewing System specifically has dropped to as low as $50 multiple times this year, most recently on Thanksgiving Day. Since we consistently see deals on 24-packs of K-Cups, this purchase will not only save your giftee from the shackles of Starbucks, but over time it'll save them a substantial amount of money versus daily visits to a local coffee shop.
They want a 3D HDTV?
Give them a standard HDTV instead.
Although it has been years since its mainstream debut, 3D HDTVs are still much more expensive than traditional LCD or plasma HDTVs. Plus, as far as content goes, the recipient will still need to purchase a 3D Blu-ray player (along with expensive 3D Blu-ray discs) to watch their favorite movies in 3D. Making matters worse, last year we noticed a 10% price increase on 3D HDTVs during the month of December. As a result, we recommend going with a 1080p LCD or plasma HDTV instead, many of which hit our price predictions last month.
They want clothing?
Give them a gift card to their favorite apparel store instead.
Buying clothes for another person can be difficult; not only must you decipher your recipient's style, but you have to guess the right size as well. This year, we say skip the needless anxiety and give them a gift card instead. This allows them to buy the apparel they want at the right size. Furthermore, it spares them from the annoying ritual of having to exchange/return an unwanted gift, an act which many times goes unfulfilled as your gift collects dust in their closet.
They want a digital SLR?
Give them a mirrorless digital camera instead.
The mirrorless digital camera offers much of the same versatility and improved image quality that you get from a DSLR, but with a generally less complicated interface, more compact size, and smaller price tag. For example, the pictured Olympus PEN E-PL2 and Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Lens bundle is a bargain at $299 (with free shipping, a low by $25). Moreover, unless your recipient is a well-documented photography enthusiast, he or she is more likely to use a mirrorless camera, as opposed to a bulky DSLR, because it's easier to carry around.
They want a Roku media player?
Give them a Blu-ray disc player with streaming instead.
Don't get us wrong; several staff members at dealnews enjoy the Roku player. But whereas the Roku provides only streaming, a WiFi-enabled Blu-ray player can also, you know, play Blu-ray movies. Your giftee will thus be able to take advantage of two types of deals as they roll in: physical Blu-ray titles and discounted movie rentals. That's ideal, considering it's an excellent time to be buying Blu-ray movies, with titles as low as $5 a pop; that's about what it would cost you to normally rent an HD movie. Only in this scenario, you get to keep the movie, and you have the proper device to watch it.
They want an iTunes Gift Card?
Give them an Amazon Gift Card instead.
Aside from the obvious fact that an Amazon gift card can be used for a wider selection of items, let's focus on the value of the cards for music. iTunes rarely discounts its music and media. When it does, the discounts aren't prominently advertised, so good luck finding them. Amazon on the other hand pushes regular sales on MP3 albums, sometimes undercutting iTunes by as much as $8. Knowing this, an Amazon gift card will gift the recipient a greater number of songs.