Forget how many shopping days are left before Christmas, we're counting down the shopping hours. People start losing their minds right about now, overspending out of fear they won't finish shopping in time for the big day.
If you can't find the exact items on your list, don't sweat it. In fact, some of the hardest-to-find items can probably be swapped out for gifts with a better value. Here are five suggestions from Marcy Bonebright, one of the consumer experts at DealNews.com.
1. What they want: A 4K TV.
The better value: A 1080p HDTV.
A 4K TV has about twice as many pixels as the average HDTV and about double the “vertical scanning lines.” Still, reviews show the visual difference between the two is almost indiscernible when you're viewing from the average, 6-feet-away distance of your couch. Besides, there aren't even any 4K TV channels, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can't translate 4K images, and there's very little other 4K content out there. It's also going to be a while before TV stations invest in the switch from HD.
Prices on 4K TVs have come down, but the cheaper ones lack the more desirable features of newer models and models to come. And they're still more expensive than 1080p TVs, which are available for great prices right now.
2. What they want: An iPad Mini 3
The better value: An iPad Mini 2
Aside from a touch ID sensor and the option to buy it in a gold finish instead of silver or “space grey,” the iPad Mini 3 offers no advantages over the iPad 2. Despite being almost identical, the iPad Mini 3 costs about $100 more than the iPad Mini 2. You can even find 16-gigabyte models for as little as $200.
3. What they want: Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.
The better value: Literally any other headphones.
This one treads dangerously close to parents-just-don't-understand territory – the kind you experienced when your mom told you the Y.O.U. sweatshirt she picked up at Hills was just as good as the I.O.U. sweatshirt you wanted from Merry-Go-Round. If someone wants Beats because of their trendy label, nothing else will do. If that's the case, get them a cheaper, refurbished pair.
But if they want sound quality, you can get the same or better while spending much less. JVC Flats, for example, cost less than $15 and were ranked one of the best headphones of the year by the widely respected reviewers at CNET.com. Beats can cost more than $350.
4. What they want: A set-top box for streaming, such as an Apple TV, a Roku or a Fire TV.
The better value: A streaming stick, such as a Roku Stick, Fire TV stick or Chromecast.
You'll get all the TV-streaming features you want from a set-top box – Netflix, Hulu, YouTube – but you'll pay much less. A Roku 3 set-top box, for example, costs about $100, while you can find a Roku streaming stick for less than 40 bucks.
5. What they want: A cheap Android tablet.
The better value: A tablet made specifically for kids.
Cheap tablets are a tempting option when you're buying for a youngster. But kid-geared tablets are usually more durable, have better parental controls, and come with more kid-friendly apps and content. They don't always cost less, but LeapFrog's LeapPad tablets start at $50.