Prepare to indulge, because luxury is making a comeback this holiday season. Shoppers are putting jewelry and high-end electronics on their gift lists, while still steering clear of big-ticket items like cars. "Shoppers are returning to discretionary purchases, but not to grandiose impulse-buying," says Ellen Davis, vice president at the National Retail Federation.
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The good news for shoppers: Because retailers are competing so fiercely with each other, prices on everything from E-readers to smartphones to books and toys are dropping quickly. "A couple of those big guys [including Target, Wal-Mart, and Amazon] will really push their prices, and they're paying a smaller wholesale price than everyone else," says Brad Wilson, publisher of Brad's Deals, a website that finds and publishes online coupon codes.
At the same time, shoppers are increasingly concerned about the impact their dollars have on causes they care about, especially the environment, so they're looking for green and charity-friendly options whenever they can.
Ready to start shopping? Here are eight gift ideas for everyone on your list:
1) Motorola Citrus smartphone: Choosing the right smartphone for someone isn't easy, given the hundreds of options available. But a new phone from Motorola stands out because it's made from recycled plastic and is certified by the nonprofit Carbonfund.org for being "carbon free," which means the company offsets the carbon dioxide used to create and use the phone. Price and availability will soon be unveiled, just in time for the holidays.
2) Justin Bieber dolls: Twelve-inch figures that look like this teenage star recently hit the shelves, with Toys "R" Us stocking them first in early November, weeks before they go on sale elsewhere. You might want to act quickly, too, because retailers expect these dolls to be one of the hottest kids' items this season. Prices for the dolls start at around $17.
3) Apple TV: This $99 HD digital media streamer landed on the list of top gifts from PriceGrabber.com, the comparison website, because it allows people to easily watch movies, television shows, and other media on their high-definition television, even if the content is stored on their computer.
4) Apple iPad tablet: PriceGrabber also selected the iPad for its top gifts list because even though it was released in April, it remains popular. Users report that it's easy to use for both work and fun. Prices start at $499.
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5) The latest Kindle: Amazon released the latest iteration of its E-reader earlier this year, and at first, it was backordered to such an extent that customers had to wait several weeks for their device. The good news is that Amazon is now fully stocked. The new Kindle offers more storage, better contrast, and a lower price tag (starting at $139).
6) "Just the Right Book" service: R. J. Julia Booksellers, based in Madison, Conn., has a new online service designed to help you choose the right books for your friends and family, just as a helpful bookseller would do if you were to visit in person. After answering several questions about the gift recipient, the booksellers put together a list of the best books for that person. Then, you can arrange to have the books delivered regularly throughout the year. Five books for babies start at $99; four books for adults start at $90.
7) Money–but not cash: ING Direct's Sharebuilder makes it easy to give stocks to children to help them learn about investing with a package that includes a $50 gift card for a new account, investment credits, and the Motley Fool video series on how to buy stocks. The package starts at $45 and will be available after Thanksgiving.
8) Charitable gifts: The World Vision gift catalogue makes it easy to find a creative donation to make in someone's name, from $30 for five ducks for a Bangladeshi family to start a duck farm, to $500 for a dairy cow to help feed a family in a developing country. Family fish kits start at $40 and job training for women starts at $25. A donation of $125 or more gets you a handmade Thai bag, too.
Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.