During the holidays, it's natural to have the urge to splurge on gifts; after all, nothing is too good for our parents, siblings, spouses, and dear friends, right? However, a smart shopper should never financially overextend themselves, especially during the holidays.
But just because you can't blow a bundle on your loved ones doesn't mean that you can't still blow their minds. Trick them into thinking that you spent a lot by choosing gifts that have a high perceived value, and rake in the "ooooh, you shouldn't have!"s. Here are the top 14 items that seem more expensive than they really are.
Opt for Pearl Jewelry
Regardless of how easily this gem can now be produced on oyster farms, the pearl still exudes an air of class and elegance over many other jewelry options. We routinely see inexpensive choices — like this 7.5mm AA+ Black Freshwater Pearl Necklace ($10.19 via coupon code "dealnews40" with free shipping, a low by $3) — that have the luster and weight characteristic of pearls, which the average person will associate with a much pricier product. Take heed, though, because some people find pearls to be a bit stuffy; make sure you know your audience with this one.
Shop the Outlets for Designer Goods at Half Price
Though buying clothes for someone is often a dicey prospect ("Oh, you don't like American flag-patterned jeggings?!"), opening a box to reveal a designer-brand cardigan can really pay off. But designer brands can be expensive even with Christmas sales. Enter the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue OFF FIFTH, Last Call Neiman Marcus, and J. Crew Factory. These stores are nothing but constant sales on name-brand clothing. Sure, you may find last season's fashions and special wares designed specifically for the outlet store, but that just means big savings of up to 60% off. And in some cases, the giftee may never know your dirty little outlet shopping secret.
There are also some traditional, brick-and-mortar outlet stores that will sometimes also include manufacturing-defected items. You can still get perfectly good high-end items at a deep discount, just make sure to inspect potential purchases to make sure they don't have a red dot on the sleeve.
Sail Away on a Cruise
When someone hears they're being whisked off on a cruise, they don't think, "Wait ... I'll bet you got a deal on this!" Nope, it's a vacation! It's exciting! There's packing to do! What the giftee doesn't know is that cruises can be ridiculously inexpensive. Take this Carnival Cruise 4-Night Western Caribbean Cruise (from $140, a low by $30), which is a vacation for two — for less than a third of the cost of an iPad. That's a huge gesture, without the huge strain on your wallet. (Just try and forget about all the recent "poop cruises," sinkings, and illnesses and focus on the savings!)
We're Into Leather, and You Should Be Too
Sometimes the material of an item alone is enough to suggest a certain level of expense. Leather is one such material. (Think of Ricardo Montalbán purring, "Rich Corinthian leather!" despite the fact that there is no such thing — but it sounds luxurious!) As far as budget leather accessories go, it's best to stick to simple styles, which makes this a particularly fitting option when buying for men. This Joseph Abboud Men's Leather Passcase Wallet ($8.50 with 1 cent s&h, $11 off), for example, is consistently available for under $10. The wallet section at Wilsons Leather, too, is well-stocked with cheap options, and also sees regular sitewide coupons, so make sure to look for one before checking out.
Do You Beer What I Beer?
For the first time ever, craft beers are out-selling Budweiser. Yes, hooray for American taste buds, but it's also an indicator that people are really getting into beer. If you've ever heard a friend use the word "hoppiness," then you might know someone who would lose their head over this Brooklyn BrewShop Beer Making Kit ($40 with free shipping, a low by $14). People tend to think that these kits are either way more money, or that the kits are super cheap and yield terrible results. This one is neither. Plus, if the giftee is suspicious that you didn't spend enough on them, that'll go away after a couple beers.
Factory-Refurbished Items Are as Good as NewApple, Canon, Nikon, and Dyson, have a history of selling beautifully restored, clean, and good-as-new-looking refurbs. These companies are meticulous in reconditioning their wares, making them look as presentable as possible. But since they're still used items, that also means huge savings for you — especially if someone on your list wants an iPad, DSLR, or high-end vacuum. Going this route, you can find yourself savings of up to 47% off iPads and up to $200 off Canon EOS DSLRs, just to name a few.
For other brands, refurbs aren't as easy to come by. Look for items that specifically call out factory refurbishment; this is your best bet to ensure quality. It's also smart to avoid anything labeled simply as "used" and phrases like "scratch and dent," because that stuff is going to look like it was tossed into a dryer with a handful of rocks and no one wants to open up something like that as a present. Also keep an eye out for warranty information; be sure that there is one, first of all, but also make sure that it's supplied by the manufacturer.
When gifting a refurbished product, there's always a chance that the giftee will find out. (Many manufacturers include such information on packing slips, ship items in nondescript brown boxes, or have other tell-tales that'll give you away.) For that reason, we recommend telling your giftee from the get go about the refurb status, in which case you could tell him or her that it was either a refurb, or no gift at all. We think they'll come around and see that a refurb isn't all that bad after all.
Bath & Body Works as a Gift Basket
Unless it's a bar of Ivory, people tend to assume that bath and beauty items are higher-end. But that shouldn't stop you from getting them actually higher-end stuff. For instance, even though the Bath & Body Work's Signature Collection of lotions, body wash, and scents can be rather expensive if bought one at a time — prices start at $11 a pop — the merchant always seems to have some kind of BOGO sales running. In fact, right now, they have a buy three, get two free promotion! Essentially cutting 40% off your total price, you can stock up on several bottles of the sweet-smelling beauty goo, then divvy them up into your own DIY gift sets. Your giftee will never know, so you can make a ... clean getaway.
Be Quirky, Kooky, or Fun
We were inclined to title this option "something from ThinkGeek," and call it a day. But really, anything that has a high quirk factor is a great gift. And cool gifts are less likely to endure the usual "how much did this cost" gaze of a gift recipient. (You know we all do it!) Plus, who really knows how much a toy sonic screwdriver costs? Was it $10? $50? If it's something the recipient thinks is cool, then they'll mentally assign a greater personal value to it, and that's a win for the giver! This category of thrifty-gifty can only be pulled off if you really know the personality of whom you're buying for, and it requires slightly more creative energy than usual. (But if you know they happen to like Star Wars or Dr. Who, you're pretty golden at ThinkGeek.)
A Wooden Box Makes Everything Seem Classy
Though many people enjoy it, very few of us are true oenophiles who can taste the difference between a $10 bottle and a $100 bottle of wine. Play upon your friends' ignorance and save some cash! Head to your local wine shop (or check out our great wine deals) and ask the wine guy to recommend a cheap (but good) bottle as a gift. He'll point out some options, just be sure to avoid choosing any with "cheap-looking" labels (this typically includes anything with an animal — butterfly, cat, or kangaroo — on it). Also try and avoid any bottle with a screw-cap, as people still tend to think that that is the hallmark of a cheap bottle.
To further elevate the "luxe-factor," enhance the presentation of the bottle. Ditch the plastic bag from the liquor store and buy a wooden box, because everything looks more expensive in a wooden box. This technique also works with cheese and other consumables like meats and fruits. (Within reason, of course — if you put Kraft Singles in a box you're not fooling anyone.)
Hit 'Em in the FEELS
A sentimental connection to an item is the easiest way to give it transcendental value, and these days, it's easy to find a wealth of products that play upon our "good old days" memories. Urban Outfitters, 80stees, and even Hot Topic are all stores that twang the heart strings for a certain generation. Who wouldn't tear up over an Alf T-Shirt or a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks? Get your buddy a Ninja Turtle Faux Christmas Sweater ($28 via coupon code "TMNTXMAS20" plus around $4 s&h, $7 off) and he'll be so nostalgic about living in the sewers with a giant rat, that he won't give a thought to price!
Save Cash on Cashmere
This option works for the same reason that leather accessories do: the material alone suggests value. Sure, the least expensive cashmere items are probably going to be a cotton blend, but they'll still carry the cashmere cachet. Kohl's frequently has inexpensive styles, and currently there are several Apt 9 women's sweaters on sale (from $27.99 via coupon code "DASHER" with $6.95 s&h, $72 off) that should fit a tight budget.
Awkward Family Photos
Family Photos Aren't So Awkward
Typically, only family members will think of a portrait as valuable (but it's worth trying out on your boss, just to see what happens). If you live far away from your parents and extended relations, and you happen to have some photogenic offspring in your brood, a photo memento can be a particularly effective, thoughtful, and inexpensive gift. Save more money by skipping the professional sitting and just ask a friend with a decent digital SLR to take a few snaps of you and your kin at home. Then, use a photo print deal to make copies. Right now, new customers can get 55 4x6" Photo Prints for free at SnapFish; which is enough to cover gifts for everyone in your extended family.
Death Gifts From Above!
One of the hot toys of the season, it seems everyone wants to be visited by a drone (the fun, play-with-at-home kind, not the robotic death-dealing military kind). Who wouldn't want to pilot one of these tiny devices around grandma's head, while she's taking a well-deserved post-dinner nap? But the best thing about these little buzzing toys is that they seem all futuristic, which means they also seem pricey, too. You'd think you couldn't get such a miniaturized technological wonder for less than $5 million and a government contract, but you can! This Udi U818A Gyro Quadcopter ($59.09 with free shipping, $6 off) even has a camera on it, so you can photograph your sleeping grandma, too. Weird.
Any Editors' Choice Deal (Within Your Budget)
The best way to give someone a gift that seems more expensive than it really is? Buy it at a significant discount! That's exactly what you'll find in our Editors' Choice section, as it's filled with all-time low prices and rare sales. Some of the items will still fall into the upper levels of your budget, but it's an excellent, fool-proof guide to getting your dollar to stretch its furthest. And lower-priced goods make for excellent stocking stuffers! You can also sign up for the DealNews Select Newsletter too, if you'd rather get the deal suggestions delivered to your inbox.
There's no shame in shopping with a budget during the holidays. In fact, knowing your limits before you start punching in your credit card info will help prevent excessive spending. The items above will help keep your expenditures down while still making your loved ones feel appreciated.
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