Feature: Cheaper Alternatives to Prized Holiday Gift Ideas

Feature: Cheaper Alternatives to Prized Holiday Gift Ideas

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If you are like most other people, you may be finding that you need to stretch this year’s holiday gift-buying budget a little further than you had previously anticipated. Sure, you’d love nothing more than to buy the absolute best presents for your friends, family, and loved ones, but you just don’t have that kind of money to spare. When you have to choose between a top-of-the-line electronic gizmo and putting food on the table, I think the choice is pretty obvious.

Fret not. Even if you find yourself with a more modest Christmas budget this year, you can still find some suitable presents that won’t break the bank. The key here is to take a slight deviation away from the most popular (and likely pricier) path and consider cheaper alternatives. A lot of the time, the person receiving the gift will be just as grateful.

Instead of the Apple iPod nano…

Love it or hate it, the Apple iPod is still one of the most sought after gifts year-in and year-out. Steve Jobs and the rest of the team in California grabbed a fair bit of attention when they unveiled the fourth-generation iPod nano, giving us a sleek aluminum casing, nifty accelerometer, and a bevy of colors to choose from. Even so, some people may be intimidated by some of those prices.

Strolling through the aisles of just about any electronics store, you’ll find plenty of alternatives to the iPod. Don’t get me wrong. I love my third-gen nano, but if I were looking to save a few bucks, I’d certainly entertain the possibility of looking elsewhere. Personally, I’d avoid the generic offshore brands, but you can still find some great MP3 player deals with recognizable names.

Thanks to some recent price cuts, one of the best deals you can find is the 4GB Microsoft Zune. Priced at just $99, it’s very affordable, gives you great podcast integration, and that Zune Pad is pretty great once you get used to it. If you want more storage, you can opt for the 8GB Zune ($139) instead. If you’re looking to save a little more, you can consider something like the SanDisk Sansa E260 (4GB) for about $60. It’s got an FM radio too.

Instead of a Canon Digital Camera…

Everyone has a digital camera these days, right? Shopping for a regular consumer-ready point-and-shoot can still be a pretty intimidating experience, because you have to wonder if that $600 P&S is really worth that much of a premium. Realistically, many of the cheaper digital cameras will be perfectly suitable for the snap-happy teen or enthusiastic soccer mom. Yes, there is certainly a market for the more expensive stuff, but the less expensive cams can provide a great value.

Take the Samsung D760 for example. It’s got a very simple appearance, to be sure, but you still get 7.2 megapixels of resolution, 3x optical zoom, SDHC support, VGA video, and ISO1000. It’s far from being a range-topping picture taker, but for the casual photographer, something like D760 will do just fine. Don’t count out something like the Kodak EasyShare C713 either, as well as offerings from Fujifilm, Casio and others. They’ve got some affordable options as well.

If you’re buying a digital camera for a “regular” consumer, there’s no need to get something with super-high ISO rating or a 10-megapixel image sensor. It’s just not necessary and they won’t make use of these potentially more expensive features anyhow.

Instead of the Asus Eee PC…

The netbook market is hot, hot, hot! It seems that nearly everyone wants one of these little laptops, but not everyone has $500 or more just lying around for such an impulse purchase. While I don’t think it offers quite the same level of build quality, you can score a much better deal with Acer Aspire One. In fact, if you’re willing to go for the Linux version of this 8.9-inch netbook, you only have to spend a little over $300. This applies to Canadians too.

Most of the expected budget netbook specs are in place, including a WSVGA display, GMA 950 graphics, and an Intel Atom processor. For $300, you get the 8GB solid state drive and 512MB of RAM. If you choose to upgrade to the $350 range, you can get one with 1.5GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive instead.

This may not be the best idea for a gift, but you can go even less expensive (up front) and get the Acer Aspire One for $99 at RadioShack. The caveat is that you need to sign a 3G data plan with AT&T to get it for that price.

Find Value at a Lower Price

No, I’m not telling you to start loading up on cheap knockoffs from eBay, but you don’t have to buy the best known name brand or the most expensive model when it comes to a lot of electronic gizmos. Instead of the Flip Mino, for instance, you can save some money with the Creative Vado. As illustrated above, the same can be said about MP3 players, digital cameras, netbooks, and more. You don’t have to break the bank to buy a great gift for tech-obsessed Timmy.

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