5 Popular Christmas Gifts and Inexpensive Substitutes

by Tim on December 5, 2011

iPad too pricey? Consider substituting a Kindle Fire

It wasn’t easy, but I figured out a way to talk about Christmas and economics in the same article.  A fundamental part of economics is the fact that substitutes can alter our decision to buy something.  If the price of what we want is too high or if scarcity causes the item to leave empty shelves at WalMart, we’re forced to choose a substitute.  If you’re in this boat, take a look at these substitutes for the most popular Christmas gifts this year.

1. iPad  Substitute: Kindle Fire

Since 2010, the iPad has been on almost everyone’s Christmas list.  At a price point of $450 or more depending on the model you want, it might be out of your price range.

But don’t get discouraged yet!  The Kindle Fire, which was released in November, is making its way to the top of the list and under the tree.  At $199 (about half the price of the iPad), we shouldn’t be surprised.

Here are some specs of the Kindle Fire

  • 7″  multi-touch display
  • 14.6 ounces
  • 8 GB internal memory, with unlimited cloud storage.
  • Dual core processor
  • Between 7-8 hours battery life.
  • Wi-Fi
  • Amazon Silk web browser

2. Yankee Candle Substitute: Soy Candles or DIY

My wife loves Yankee Candles but they can get expensive!  If the person you’re shopping for doesn’t mind an alternative, you can try an eco-friendly soy candle which can be half the cost of a regular Yankee Candle.  You can also check out eBay or Amazon for deals on actual Yankee Candles.  Just try to stay away from the store in the mall unless they have a huge sale.  You can save a lot by ordering them online or making them yourself.

3. DVDs Substitute: Netflix Subscription

I’ve never been a fan of buying DVDs because they’re so expensive and you might watch them a few times then forget about them.  Instead of spending $30-50 DVDs for each person in your family, consider paying for a year’s worth of Netflix. At $8 a month, you’ll be paying $96 for a year of Netflix.  If you buy a DVD at $15, you’d be limited to 6 with your $100 budget.  With Netflix, you can watch thousands of movies for less than $100 a year!

4. Buckyballs Substitute: Neodymium Magnets from Amazon

I have no idea why Buckyballs are so popular, but kids (and adults) love them.  The downside is that real Buckyballs will set you back about $20 – $30.  Seems kind of high for magnets.  If you like the idea of these stackable magnets, you can do a search on Amazon for “Neodymium Magnets.”  It’s basically the same thing (Buckyball is just a brand for these ‘rare earth magnets’) and you can get a cool set of magnet cubes for $9.99.

5. Christmas Gifts Substitute: Vacation

Why not skip the gifts altogether and create memories instead?  That’s exactly what Joe and his family did this summer.  Rent a nice beach house and spend a week away from the cold.  Check out Joe’s Christmas in June post here.

Do you have any suggestions for Christmas gift substitutes?

Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the Faith and Finance RSS feed.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle S December 7, 2011 at 11:13 am

My daughter really, really wants an American Girl Doll ($100+). Instead American Girl has mini-dolls out currently. I was able to get her one mini-doll at Walmart.com for just $14 and another one for $15 on Amazon (normal price $22). The mini-dolls don’t have additional outfits or accessories to add to the cost and come with a mini-book also.


electrician Cal December 8, 2011 at 10:12 am

dude, the kindle as an ipad replacement is a really good idea. I am actually setting up a home automation system in my house and was going to use an ipad in every room but found out that the kindle is way cheaper and can do a lot of the same control functions I need. anyway, i’m totally geeking out on this, can’t wait to do it.


Ben December 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm

DO NOT give a Netflix gift subscription. Your recipient will be required to enter THEIR credit card information (a prepaid credit card won’t work) which will authorize Netflix to charge for the subscription after the gift subscription runs out unless they remember to cancel first.


joeplemon December 12, 2011 at 10:11 am

Ben — Hadn’t thought of that aspect of a Netflix gift subscription. Just to be clear, does Netflix require that credit card information at the beginning of the gift subscription period or after it has expired?


Alex Humphrey December 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm

If you cancel it immediately, will it still run the full course of the gift subscription?


Alex Humphrey December 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

These are great ideas, Tim! I especially like the netflix subscription instead of DVDs. I’m gonna have to change something on my list…lol


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