13 Holiday Gifts That Aren't Worth the Money


There are only a couple days left until Christmas, and your shopping list still has names on it. It's crunch time, and it's now harder to avoid buying those last-minute gifts that many retailers love to push.

Dig deep this Christmas and avoid buying these common holiday gifts, which are hardly worth the money you'll likely pay.

1. DVD Box Sets

You may think you want that special edition box set of all six Rocky movies, complete with extra footage and a book to go with it, but deep down you know it will probably just collect dust. I've learned over the years that DVDs are space hogs that aren't really worth owning. People are increasingly moving away from DVDs in favor of downloads and streaming video, anyway. Why get a bunch of discs when you can stream them from a service like Netflix anytime you want? (The same goes for CD audio sets, as well.)

2. High-End Jewelry

I can get away with saying this because my wife isn't really into fancy stuff. I'm generally off the hook for buying jewelry this time of year. My wife is of the mind that shiny things don't have much of a practical purpose, and I agree. The nicest jewelry can be costly to buy, costly to care for, and you may even have to pay to get it insured. I won't publicly defend the man who hands his wife a blender instead of a bracelet on Christmas morning, but you won't see me praising the man who drops $6,000 on a necklace, either.

This also goes for luxury watches, too. In the digital age, many people check time on their cell phones, or have moved to wearing smart watches and fitness trackers.

3. Any New Product Update

It's common for companies to release new products around the holidays in the hopes that they'll capture the attention of early adopters. We've seen this with everything from video game systems to mobile phones. But it rarely makes sense to buy a new item right away. New products are often sky high in price, and subsequent iterations of a product usually work better.

This advice also applies to buying new cars. Auto dealers usually start selling new models around August, but the previous year models are often still on lots for a few months beyond then. You'll get a much better deal on a year-old model as the salesman will be eager to unload old inventory before year's end.

4. Big Coffee Table Books

You'll see a ton of these big volumes for sale around Christmas, and it can be tempting to pick one up for a loved ones. These books often cost more than $30, but how often do you think your relatives will look at them? Even high-quality coffee table books like those featuring photos from National Geographic or Life magazines will ultimately just serve as large paperweights in their homes.

5. "Gourmet" Chocolate

Around the holidays, a Snickers bar apparently won't do. It's far more fashionable to spend extra money on "higher-end" chocolate that's been hand-manufactured by specially trained Belgian elves, or something. Those sampler boxes are especially popular this time of year. But let's be honest: This so-called gourmet chocolate will rarely taste exponentially better than your average supermarket aisle candybar. And amidst the mountain of cookies and other desserts you'll stuff yourself with at Christmas, those gift chocolates could get lost in the shuffle and only turn up in the spring. Save your money and avoid the sweet treats.

6. Fitness Equipment

I always wonder how many people have a Thighmaster deep within in their attic. And who among us hasn't used the treadmill to hang laundry? Aside from sending a bad message — Merry Christmas! You're fat! — getting someone fitness equipment is often costly and puts you at risk of buying something that will be outdated in short order. If you have a friend or relative who loves to exercise, you're best off getting them a gift card for some decent workout clothes or even paying for their entry fee to an upcoming 5k run.

7. Stuffed Animals (for Adults)

You may think that the large panda bear with the Santa hat is awfully cute, but what purpose does a stuffed animal serve for a grownup? A high-end teddy bear might run you $80 or more, and it won't do the laundry or cook. Unless you have a mate with a real fondness for fur, stay away from the stuffed creatures at holiday time.

8. Address Books, Desk Calendars, Etc.

"Um, this is nice, honey. But I have an iPhone."

9. Pen and Pencil Sets

See above. In the digital age, no one writes stuff down anymore. It sometimes feels tempting to get someone a decent pen set, especially if they work in a professional setting. But pens can be had for a buck a box, and are easily lost. Don't waste your money.

10. Computer Gear and Peripherals

You may think it's a good idea to get your spouse that 1TB external hard drive for storing all the family photos. But it's a rather bland gift, and the reality is that these kinds of items are always coming down in price. Unless you're looking to fill an immediate need, hold off until you see a good after-Christmas deal.

11. Lingerie

If properly executed, this is the kind of gift that can offer many happy returns. But from my experience in shopping for such items, lingerie is often overpriced and it's hard to know in advance whether the items are something a woman would even want to wear. If you're a guy and you're considering buying her lingerie, maybe ask if she'd be interested in shopping for the items together.

12. Cooking/Kitchen Items

If we're being honest with ourselves, the only items we need to cook effectively are a couple of decent pots and pans and a spatula. But there's a whole massive industry that's succeeded in fooling folks into thinking they need a kitchen full of special items. (An Avocado cuber? Really?) If you really want to get a foodie a good gift, promise to make them a special meal or take them out to a great restaurant.

13. Soap/Shampoo/Body Lotion Sets

You'll see these stacked in the middle aisles of department stores, calling to those shoppers in need of last-minute items. Resist the urge. People can buy their own soap, and usually for less money than what you are paying.

Have you bought (or received) any holiday gifts that aren't worth the money?

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

Uh, no. The high end Swiss, German, and Italian chocolate definitely tastes better than your checkout isle candy bar. Having said that, I can agree the prices can get out of hand.

Guest's picture

Yes....to high-end chocolate! It really is much, much better than the "average supermarket aisle chocolate"!! Also...Do we need a desk-top calendar? Probably not...but they are a bit amusing....I'd say yes to those as well! But I do agree with the rest of the other stuff..nope!

Tim Lemke's picture

I'd put a good old Hershey bar up against any other chocolate bar out there.

Guest's picture
Kelly C

I'm SO guilty of the moisturize/body wash set and the chocolate offense. I shouldn't have read this. Now I feel bad.

Guest's picture

I too agree with everything except the chocolate. There is a huge difference. Plus, higher end chocolates aren't that expensive.

Guest's picture

Wow, you just nailed half of my favorite gifts to receive! Chocolate, kitchen, DVDs, and computer stuff is what I love to get. Hope my husband doesn't see this!

Guest's picture

Jewelry is a must have. Sorry practical gifts just feel like cop outs.

Guest's picture

Have to disagree with you about one - high end chocolate is worth every penny! Oh my Godiva, do I love that stuff!!!! And the difference between that and a snickers is huge. Not to mention the health benefits of good chocolate over supermarket candy.