Amazon recently published a Holiday Home Gift Guide, which covers all sorts of categories for gift-giving and suggests popular items within those categories. Compared to the electronics and toy guides, Amazon's Home version wasn't too terrible as far as recommendations go.
However, I went digging, and there were a few items that stood out as being an expensive waste of time. I've called out a few of Amazon's suggestions and recommended better options instead. Whether it means better reviews, a sweeter price point, or a more quality product, Thrifter's picks will give you more overall value.
- Decor & Furniture
- Cooking & Baking
- Practical Gifts
- Holiday Hosting
- Baby & Nursery
- Crafts & Work Space
Decor & Furniture
Amazon's Suggestion: NEST Fragrances Birchwood Pine Reed Diffuser - $44
First of all, I'm just going to say that I am a massive fan of NEST perfumes. Its fragrances are unique and unlike anything I've ever smelled, and I constantly get compliments whenever I wear them, so I'd imagine that if done correctly they could make your home smell heavenly. That being said, this diffuser is ridiculous. If I'm spending $44 for a home fragrance, I need more than 3.7 out of 5 stars. Most of the reviews say that the scent is extremely faint. I suppose it would be okay for small spaces, but when I think "home fragrance" I think of my entire living room smelling great, not just the corner where the diffuser is.
Instead, I'd opt for a candle warmer paired with wax tarts. These are still flameless, and a lot of the warmers light up as well so they are more of a decoration piece than a jar with some sticks in it. There are a ton of candle warmers on sale at Amazon for around $17.99. My personal favorite is this adorable, on-trend mason jar illuminated wax warmer that received 4.5 out of 5 stars. If that isn't up your alley, there are a ton of others to choose from. Pair them with a pack of scented wax melts for $17.95. These received 4.4 out of 5 stars. For a total of $36, you'll receive a beautiful item that can fill the entire room with fragrance, plus three different scents to choose from. A lower price and higher reviews? I'll take those odds any day.
Cooking & Baking
Amazon's Suggestion: Tiger 5.5-Cup Stainless Steel Rice Cooker - $223.33
- Our Suggestion: Instant Pot 6-Quart 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker - $99.95
Amazon's suggestion is fancy, and the price tag matches. It has 4.3 out of 5 stars based on 87 customer reviews. It's really, really great at cooking rice.
But consider the following: for $123 less, you can get a device that does all that…and more. Our suggestion, the Instant Pot DUO60, is the #1 Best Seller in Kitchen & Dining for good reason. It received 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 22,384 customer reviews. One reason I think this item is better is because the capacity is so much larger. You could make 24 cups of rice with this thing! It does much more than cook rice, though. It is a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a warmer, and a yogurt maker. It can also steam and sauté. How's that for a countertop appliance?
It has 14 smart programs to help take the guesswork out of creating your favorite dishes. If you're in need of a super-fancy rice cooker, then by all means, go with Amazon's suggestion. But if you want to save over $100 and space in your kitchen, I vote you roll with ours.
Amazon's Suggestion: Whitmore 5-Tier Acrylic Cosmetic Organizer - $75.99
- Our Suggestion: byAlegory Acrylic Palette Organizer + DreamGenius 360-Degree Rotating Cosmetic Storage - Total: $50
Coming from a makeup addict, I know that storage can be tricky. Sometimes you just want everything displayed beautifully while still keeping it organized and within arm's reach. Amazon's suggestion will surely do that, but I have a few issues with it. The price tag is hefty. It has the benefit of very deep drawers, but depending on the kind of makeup you want to organize, that may not be convenient. If you're a lipstick junkie like myself, storing those in this set of drawers would mean they'd either roll around or you'd have to pick them up individually to try and figure out which shade is which. The same goes for organizing things like makeup palettes, or items with bulky packaging (lookin' at you, Physicians Formula).
If it were me, I'd opt to save $25 and pick up a couple of other items instead, the first being the byAlegory Acrylic Palette Organizer. This item is $23.35, and it will store 8 or more individual palettes. The dividers are removable, meaning you can customize it to suit your needs. That way your most-used palettes are within reach and still organized nicely.
The second product I'd pick up would be the DreamGenius 360-Degree Rotating Cosmetic Storage. When working with limited space, vertical storage is your friend. This $26 organizer has six adjustable layers, so you can arrange each one to have the perfect height. The top compartment can store small items like makeup brushes, mascaras, and lipsticks. The middle layers are good for perfume, body mists, larger foundations, and the like. It's a small detail, but I also like the diamond-esque border since it adds a luxe feel to the product.
If you only need to store flat makeup products, then Amazon's storage solution may work better for you. For a total of $50, you can still organize your makeup beautifully. Our suggestions also let you customize your ideal makeup storage. Honestly, if I had it my way I'd have an entire room dedicated to storing my makeup. A girl can dream, right?
Amazon's Suggestion: Precious Moments Snow Much Fun Snowman Cookie Jar - $43.16
- Our Suggestion: Lenox Happy Holly Days Snowman Cookie Jar - $37.47
Amazon's suggestion is cute, for sure, but I balked at the price tag. $45 for a cookie jar? I remember Precious Moments being huge in the 80s, but this is 2017, and the premium price tag just doesn't add up. Instead, may I suggest the Lenox Happy Holly Days Snowman Cookie Jar for $37? It has a 4.8 out of 5 star rating from almost 70 customer reviews. They are both the same size as well so you aren't sacrificing space by saving money. If you want to be even more frugal, get yourself a cookie jar that can be used year-round, like this on-trend DII Farmhouse Chic Cookie Jar for $23.
Baby & Nursery
Amazon's Suggestion: Itzy Ritzy Boss Backpack Diaper Bag - $149.99
- Our Suggestion: Smilism Diaper Bag Backpack - $36.99
The Itzy Ritzy Boss Backpack is beautiful and stylish, there is no question about that. It has great reviews — 4.6 out of 5 stars with 71, to be exact — and the timeless design is nothing but classy. It comes with 17 total pockets, 12 internal and 5 external, including two insulated bottle pockets and a felt-lined valuables pocket. It also features rubber feet to keep the bag clean, and you'll get coordinating stroller straps as well as a change mat. All that can be yours for only $149.99.
$150 for a bag that will inevitably get splattered with puke, food, formula, poop, and God knows what else? Maybe this would be great to put on your registry, unless of course you can afford to drop that much on a backpack. However, if you're like most expecting people that I know, you're likely working within a budget. Luckily there are many other diaper bag options that are much more affordable.
The Smilism Diaper Bag Backpack is $36.99. It received 4.6 out of 5 stars from 434 customer reviews. It has 12 pockets, including 3 insulating bottle pockets. The bag is constructed from durable, waterproof fabric. The design is also unisex, much more so than the Itzy Ritzy Boss model. I would also argue that this design is more practical than the $150 bag. The Smilism bag has a mesh pocket near the bottles, a special bottom compartment designed for folded clothes/blankets/rags, and a special section for wet items. The wide straps mean it will be easy on your back as well as your wallet. Plus, the price tag means when your perfect, sweet angel spits up down your back, you won't be splattering what is essentially a designer handbag in baby puke. Welcome to parenthood!
Crafts & Work Space
Amazon's Suggestion: DYMO MobileLabeler Label Maker w/ Bluetooth Smartphone Connectivity - $56.99
- Our Suggestion: Brother P-touch CUBE Smartphone Dedicated Bluetooth Label Maker - $44.99
I laughed out loud when I saw the DYMO MobileLabeler on Amazon's list. The concept is cool, but $60? For that price I'd rather just write on masking tape and have sloppy, cheap labels. I was hoping the reviews would sell me, but it's only received 3.4 out of 5 stars with 70 reviews. 17% of the reviews are 1-star. Yikes. Maybe it can redeem itself… what are the features? Well, obviously you can make labels, and the Bluetooth connectivity means you can create and print them from your phone. The DYMO App has spell-check, voice-to-text, and customization tools. The battery is rechargeable.
The iffy reviews and the price point just aren't doing it for me. If you're investing that much, you should know that you're ordering a standout product.
Our suggestion, the Brother P-touch CUBE Smartphone Dedicated Bluetooth Label Maker, will run you $44.99. It has 4 out of 5 stars from 48 customer reviews. It comes with all the same features, like extra fonts and spell-check, plus it includes a starter pack of tape. Plus you're saving yourself $10!
If you want to ditch Bluetooth alltogether, pick up the Dymo LabelManager 160 Hand-Held Label Maker Bundle for $22.58 instead.
Amazon's Home Gift Guide isn't bad, and it still has some great affordable suggestions if you're looking for some gift-giving inspiration. However, this just goes to show that you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get some fantastic high-quality gifts. Thrifter's got your back!
Are you looking for something specific for gifts this year that we haven't touched on yet? Drop a comment below or hit us up on Twitter. We're always here to help you spend where it matters.
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