10 Hot Holiday Gifts and How to Get Them for Less

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IN DEMAND IN 2015

Every year there are a few gift requests that make their way onto just about everyone's holiday shopping list. The scramble to buy one of these hot Christmas gifts before the shelves empty leaves little time to figure out how to get a must-have item for less. But by shopping around, seeking out cheaper alternatives, and applying some smart holiday shopping tips, anyone can save money on the most sought-after gifts this year.

STAR WARS LIGHTSABER

Lightsabers are the most iconic weapon from the "Star Wars" films, and the release of a new chapter in the franchise in December makes this a hot toy. Hasbro's $55 Bladebuilders lightsabers have module pieces that fit together in more than 100 ways. A less expensive alternative: Ask the recipient to pick a favorite Jedi and get a lightsaber with a matching color. Individual lightsabers, including Kylo Ren's broadsword-style, are available from $10 to $17 at Toys R Us.

BB-8

Another Star Wars toy likely to be on many lists this year is the BB-8 droid. One version, from Sphero, is controlled with a smartphone app and costs $150. Another, made by Hasbro and available at Target, comes with a remote control and costs $80. Aside from the controller, the Hasbro version is larger, slower, and runs on AA batteries instead of an internal rechargeable battery. But it's still a good buy, according to a Mashable review. If you're on a budget, this may be the droid you're looking for.

DOC MCSTUFFINS TAKE CARE OF ME LAMBIE

Doc McStuffins toys perennially make the Toys R Us Fabulous 15 hot toy list. The Take Care of Me Lambie playset includes a plush Lambie with more than 50 trigger-activated responses, a stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope, and sticker bandages. Prices vary by store, which is how savvy shoppers can save. Amazon lists the toy for $50, but Walmart, Target, and Toys R Us have it for $40. Save even more with storewide discounts. For example, Target gives 5 percent off all purchases made with its debit or credit RedCard.

GOPRO

Although GoPro does not allow retailers to advertise lower-than-list prices, there are ways to save on the popular action cameras. For example, buy a GoPro online using a cash-back site such as Mr. Rebates to get 2 percent to 5 percent back when shopping at Best Buy or Sports Authority. GoPro also has an entry-level Hero camera that lacks Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity but costs only $130.

CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY

This more risqué version of the family-game-night favorite Apples to Apples sells for $25 online and at many game shops. Not everyone knows they can legally download a printable version of the game on the official company website. Although it takes about an hour and costs about $10 in ink and paper, this is a frugal way to get your hands on a popular gift. Six expansion packs, three holiday-themed packs, and three additional variety packs are also available for $5 to $10 each. The expansions and downloadable version include blank cards for creating unique questions and answers.

HEADPHONES

Popular Beats by Dre headphones start at $200, but there are many highly recommended models available for a fraction of that price. JVC HA-S400 over-ear headphones with carbon nanotubes start at $25 and sound more expensive, according to a CNET review. They also have an almost-perfect score from more than 150 reviews on Amazon. If the logo is non-negotiable, pounce on a Black Friday deal at Target: Starting Thanksgiving Day, Beats Solo 2 headphones will sell for $97.

FITNESS TRACKER

With New Year's around the corner, fitness will soon be on many people's minds. Get ahead of a weight-loss resolution with the gift of a fitness tracker, which can offer feedback and motivation. The popular Fitbit Charge HR is priced at $180. Instead, consider Cheapism.com's top picks under $50. They include the Fitbit Zip, the cheapest entree into the Fitbit ecosystem, and the LifeTrack Move C300, which features heart-rate tracking like the Fitbit Charge HR. To get the best deal on the higher-end wristband, buy from Kohl's starting at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The Black Friday "door buster" price for the Fitbit Charge HR is $120, plus $30 in Kohl's Cash.

HOVERBOARD

Hoverboards, or self-balancing scooters, are all the rage, even at prices between $250 and $1,500. More expensive models may have longer-lasting batteries, stronger motors, and better programming, but that is not guaranteed -- some companies may take a cheap board, change the aesthetics, and increase the price. As a Wired report explains, there's not much difference between a cheap scooter and a pricey one; the issue is quality control. Look for lower-priced options with lots of positive feedback on sites such as Amazon -- and watch out for fake reviews. Ordering directly from a Chinese supplier through a site such as AliExpress can shave off a few hundred dollars even after paying import taxes and shipping, but buyers who choose this route may forgo a warranty and customer support.

VR HEADSETS

Facebook's Oculus Rift, Microsoft's HoloLens, and Sony's PlayStation VR are all expected next year, with price estimates starting at $350 -- but there are starter options available now that use a smartphone for the immersive video, and they're more affordable. The Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition can be found for as little as $100 but fits only two Samsung smartphone models. The Zeiss VR One (starting at $120) claims to fit any phone, as does Google Cardboard, an app with a variety of viewers starting at only $15.

GIFT CARDS

For nine years in a row, gift cards have been the most-requested holiday gift in a National Retail Federation survey. Frugal shoppers can find plastic and electronic gift cards on sale for less than their face value. Look on Gift Card Granny, an aggregator of online gift card marketplaces. Warehouse clubs such as Costco also sell discounted cards, and eBay's Thanksgiving weekend sales include deals such as $60 GameStop gift cards for $50 on Cyber Monday. Non-store gift cards that can be used anywhere don't typically sell at a discount, but American Express is offering $10 off $200 Amex gift cards through Dec. 31. Cardholders with online accounts can check the Amex Offers section to see if they're eligible.