Things don't seem to change a lot year to year when it comes to holiday shopping. Americans will spend a lot on holiday gifts—an average of $537, down a bit from last year. And the list of most desired gifts remains pretty much the same: Gift cards, clothing, electronics, CDs, DVDs, video games, and books have topped wish lists for the 10th year in a row, according to the National Retail Federation.
And, of course, budget-conscious shoppers are looking for deals or ways to hold down spending: Eight in 10 shoppers will clip coupons, make DIY gifts, or purchase joint gifts for family and friends.
One area that has changed is where people shop, as more Americans buy online. (Check our review of shopping websites.) No matter where you plan to shop, check our compilation of the top gift items of 2013.
From smart phones to big-screen TVs, electronics items continue to topic holiday wish lists. Shopping online for these products is a given—nearly half of all consumers who purchase electronics this season will get them online, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
When should you expect to score best buys online? "Cyber Monday [Dec. 1] and the week before Christmas are good bets” for scoring deals, says Shawn DuBravac, CEA’s chief economist and senior director of research.
Tablets like the Amazon 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX and the Apple iPad Air are being promoted heavily this holiday season. Stereo headphones, such as beats by dre Beats Solo HD, and smart watches, including the Pebble, will also top some techies' wish lists. Bundles will abound, including the current offering of a Toshiba Ultra HD TV with a home theater, DuBravac adds.
The new Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One—which Target and Walmart expect to be popular layaway gifts—are sure to be in high demand all season long. (Good luck finding one!)
One in five consumers want home goods this year, and retailers are paying attention. So if anyone needs a set of knives, a blender, or a vacuum, look for discounts around Black Friday. Target hinted that small appliance and cookware deals will be plentiful at its stores.
Among models to look for: the Ninja Professional NJ600 excels at smoothies, soups, and sauces, and the Keurig K45 Elite Brewing System single-serve coffeemaker is a convenient solution to suit every family member’s coffee (or hot chocolate) preferences.
On a larger scale, an energy-efficient refrigerator might be the perfect upgrade for your favorite chef. The roomy Samsung RSG309AA[RS] has a built-in LCD screen that displays digital photos, tracks your Google calendar, and delivers news and weather updates.
If the DIYer in your life prefers the workshop over the kitchen, consider a cordless drill, such as the Porter-Cable PCL418C-2.
Once the gluttonous fog of oven-roasted turkeys and sugarcoated side dishes dissipates, someone’s stomach is sure to cry “uncle.” Balance out that person's diet with a juicer, like the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Pro 67650.
After the juice cleanse, a new piece of tech will whip muscles into shape. Wearable tech, like “smart” activity trackers, is gaining prominence on the health front. The Nike+ FuelBand and Fitbit One offer real-time results and wirelessly sync with a computer or smart phone. Couple the tracker with a new pair of athletic sneakers to show them you really thought it through.
Another bundle idea is pairing a new game console with a fitness game, like Just Dance 2014, which can give them the a real workout. Your fitness freak can dance the pounds away by moving to everything from Flashdance’s “What A Feeling” to Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
To round out the exercise routine, a folding treadmill that can easily be stored in an apartment such as the ProForm Pro 2000 may be the best fitness-related gift yet.
Even if buying yourself or a loved one the new luxury sedan you’ve seen advertised on TV isn’t in your price range, you can still make your current ride feel like new with the right accessories. A smart phone car mount adds the convenience of hands-free talking, while a GPS navigator comes in handy when you need to avoid toll roads, or find the nearest ice cream shop.
And if a new ride is in your budget this year, take a moment to consider the cars we'd place in the self-gift department: BMW 135i, Ford Mustang, or Porsche Cayenne—three of Consumer Report’s most fun to drive picks.
Don’t be surprised if someone asks for a gift card to his or her favorite store or restaurant—six in 10 shoppers would like to receive a gift card this holiday season, and Americans spend billions upon billions on these convenient gifts.
So gift card bundles are sure to appear this year. For instance, you add a gift card to the gift of a tablet so the recipient can buy apps, music, or accessories. Some retailers might offer gift cards as a bonus during peak sale dates.
Some e-gift card programs, including Starbucks’, allow the recipient to track, use and reload the gift card directly from their mobile device—without printing the barcode.
Read our advice on buying gift cards.
More from Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports' top scoring cars
Best & worst new cars
Guide to the best small SUVs
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.
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