16 Gifts That Seem Expensive, But Really Aren't

You can afford pearls, cashmere, and smartwatches — if you know how and when to shop!
Updated
Smartwatch Holiday Gift

Does your Christmas list have you suffering from sticker shock? Don't worry, we're rounding up surprisingly affordable gift ideas! Check out our list, so you can spoil your friends and family without spoiling your budget.

A quick note about our format: A "$" corresponds to prices under $10, "$$" represents the $10 to $99 price range, "$$$" represents $100 to $999, and "$$$$" represents $1,000 and up.

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Pearl Necklaces

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Pearls are a sophisticated accessory nearly anyone would appreciate, and everyone can pull off. Depending on where you shop, you can find a necklace and bracelet set for as little as $10. Prefer to shell out a little more? Win Pearl has a wide range of prices, from $24 to $85.

Designer Goods

What People Think They Cost: $$$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Designer brands are status symbols for many consumers. Most giftees would be happy to receive expensive goods from outlets like Saks Off 5th, Last Call, Nordstrom Rack, and Barneys Warehouse. While you can shop these outlets year-round, during the holidays they tend to have great sales and stackable coupons.

SEE ALSO: 8 Things You Should NOT Buy Before Christmas

One thing to keep in mind, though: The inventory is usually comprised of only a small amount of overstock leftovers and private-label brands. It seems the bulk of outlet merch is made up of items from "brand-appropriate" vendors. And despite what the price tag says, you aren't necessarily saving hundreds of dollars. That MSRP is often just an arbitrary number chosen by the retailer, and the garment may never have been sold at that price.

Small-Batch Alcohol

What People Think It Costs: $$$
What It Actually Costs: $$


Gifting alcohol is always a bit risky, unless you know the recipient very well. You don't want to dredge up memories of cheap Tequila Tuesdays from college!

Research is your friend here, whether you want to give artisan liquor, wine, or beer. Local craft beers tend to be relatively inexpensive. And if there's a winery or distillery nearby, you can sometimes find a better price in their tasting room than on the grocery store shelf.

Cashmere

What People Think It Costs: $$$
What It Actually Costs: $$


Cashmere has been a go-to luxury gift for decades now. If you opt for sartorial selections made only with cashmere, you can expect to pay at least $150. However, if you choose a comfy cashmere blend, you'll easily find pieces priced under $100. We've seen cashmere blend sweaters go for $40 at Macy's in late November and early December; Jos. A. Bank sold some for as little as $12 last August.

If you choose a comfy cashmere blend, you'll easily find pieces priced under $100.

Tablets

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Tablets are ubiquitous these days, and it's not hard to spend a few hundred on a good device. However, you can find affordable options for under $100, particularly if you don't need a powerhouse. (If you do need more power, you're usually better off buying a laptop or Chromebook instead.) Android tablets can run as cheap as $20 to $30. Just keep in mind that spending too little could mean buyer's remorse later. This is one category where you definitely get what you pay for.

Home Assistants

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Consumers are using home assistants and smart gadgets now more than ever. For anyone who's unfamiliar with the tech, the futuristic functionality might seem too expensive to implement in their own home. But you can easily find a home assistant for under $100.

The latest Amazon Echo is regularly $99, but has consistently been discounted to $69 recently; the newest Echo dot is normally $50, but has been hovering around $24 to $29 since Black Friday. Additionally, the Google Home Mini is regularly $49. If you don't mind spending a little more, you can find bundles that include smart gadgets and hubs to make the setup process even easier.

Watches

What People Think They Cost: $$$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Stylish watches at affordable prices are becoming more mainstream, meaning you don't have to spend over $1,000 just to find quality accessories that look good. (Seriously, an older-model Rolex will set you back about $5,000.)

SEE ALSO: Christmas Shipping Deadlines for 2018: Get Gifts Under the Tree in Time!

Sites like MVMT and Daniel Wellington offer attractive timepieces for a fraction of the cost of higher-tier brands. (The most expensive of these brands tend to go for around $290.) You can always have the watch engraved to add a sentimental touch.

It's important to note that some shoppers have raised questions about these brands. While there are quite a few positive reviews, both MVMT and Daniel Wellington have a fair amount of negative feedback from users as well. As such, these affordable timepieces might not be suited for everyday wear and a long life span.

Gourmet Foods

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Shopping for a foodie can be difficult. You don't want to present them with a subpar edible gift, after all! Instead, wow them with a food item they'll actually use — like truffle salt, for example.

Truffle salt is a mix of salt and fine pieces of black or white truffles, and is classified as a finishing salt. It's meant to be sprinkled over the end product, rather than used during the cooking process. Used like this, a 1.05 ounce jar can last several months. (And you can even snag a three pack for around $30, or a 3.5 ounce jar for around $20, depending on where you shop.)

Does your giftee have a sweet tooth? Artisan chocolate truffles can be as cheap as $11 for about 7 pieces, or around $30 for 20 pieces. If cheese is more your friend's style, you can find collections that make excellent gifts. We spotted one for $85 that included four cheeses, as well as dried fruits and nuts, crostini, and honey, with enough to feed between 10 and 12 people.

Smartwatches

What People Think They Cost: $$$$
What They Actually Cost: $$$


When the Apple Watch was first released, prices ranged from $349 to over $10,000. Fortunately, now most models are well under $1,000. You can find both Apple and Samsung models for under $400, and even units from Sony under $100. Just be aware that the more you spend, the more your smartwatch will be able to do. Additionally, the more expensive models will also likely have premium materials.

Bluetooth Speakers

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


You can definitely spend a few hundred dollars on portable Bluetooth speakers. But the good news is that you don't have to. Excellent models can be had for under $100, and this includes brands like Sony, Logitech UE, and JBL. Pick up a highly rated unit for as little as $55.

Yes, cheaper wireless cans can have inferior audio quality, but casual music fans are unlikely to notice.

Wireless Headphones

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Wireless headphones are handy for anyone who enjoys listening to media on their mobile device — especially if they've got a newer model with no headphone jack. And yes, cheaper wireless cans can have inferior audio quality, but casual music fans are unlikely to notice. Sadly, the wireless headphones with excellent audio quality tend to cost a lot more. That said, you can find solid brands like Beats and Sony for under $100 during holiday sales.

Streaming Media Players

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


You can easily find a streaming media player under $100, especially if you're shopping for something other than Apple TV. The standard Google Chromecast will only set you back $35, and the upper-tier Chromecast Ultra is $69. Amazon's Fire TV Sticks can go for $40 or $50 depending on whether or not you opt for 4K. Additionally, there are occasional bundles that include a Chromecast or Fire TV Stick with a Google Home Mini or Echo Dot, or multiple streamers, so you'll get more bang for your buck!

Robot Vacuums

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$$


Robot vacuums were an expensive dream appliance for many consumers until recently. They've dropped significantly in price, and there are more brands now, so it's entirely possible to buy something other than a Roomba. While there are definitely still models that'll set you back $800 or more, it's much easier to find units for less than $200. We've even seen a new Roomba go for as little as $194.

SEE ALSO: One for You, One for Me: The Best BOGO Gift Card Freebies

Motorized Ride-On Toys

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


As kids, those Power Wheels vehicles were the gold standard of toys. They also cost a few hundred dollars, at least. While you can still easily spend $300 on a mini convertible, you can also find a powered ride-on toy for much less. We've seen a mini Audi with a 6-volt battery go for as little as $69, a "motorcycle" for $35, and even an ATV for $27.

LEGO Sets

What People Think They Cost: $$$
What They Actually Cost: $$


Us adults remember LEGO sets fondly, but they are some of the priciest toys out there now. If you're eyeing Harry Potter or Star Wars sets, be prepared to spend a decent amount. We've seen smaller branded sets for around $30 for Star Wars or $60 for Harry Potter. If you're looking for a kit that allows more variety, though, it's better to look to general kits. We've seen a huge 900-piece Creative Box set go for only $20, so cheaper (and bigger) options are definitely out there.

Editors' Choice Deals

If none of the above seem to fit your criteria, then check out our Editors' Choice picks. This section is always brimming with rare sales as well as all-time price lows. Some of these items might go into the higher tiers of your budget, but buying them is still a foolproof way of seeing that your dollar goes further.

Readers, what kinds of inexpensive gifts are your favorites to give? Do you agree with our picks? Let us know in the comments below!


Senior Staff Writer

Julie joined DealNews in 2015. Her work has been featured on MSN, Business Insider, Lifehacker, The Motley Fool, GoBankingRates, and Moneyish. In her spare time, she enjoys baking sweets, reading thrillers, and listening to an ever-growing list of podcasts.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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1 comment
steviechill21
This is a bizarre article. It would be better with actual data and examples of each. Even then it basically reads you can buy things for less if you look around online or settle for lesser, cheaper brands.