In praise of the small, thoughtful gift

It's the thought that countsThere is so much pressure to overspend on gifts at Christmas, and it seems to be getting worse every year, even though in real terms we are less well off than we used to be. There’s too much pressure to buy people armfuls of presents, or big ticket items that cost hundreds of pounds. Hundreds of pounds most of us don’t even have.

While that social pressure certainly exists, we don’t have to go along with it. We certainly don’t need to start thinking that it’s ‘normal’. What’s normal about the average household buying super-luxury gifts? Why get into debt subscribing to the kind of lifestyle very few can afford any more, and perhaps few could really afford in the first place?

Maybe it’s time to back up a bit and think a little longer before we shop. Let go of the unrealistic expectations, and think about gifts that could genuinely make the recipient’s life a bit more pleasant, rather than trying to impress with the price tag. This year, as I’ve mentioned recently, The Beau and I have set a strict price cap on our Christmas spending, and that’s actually been quite helpful.

Having a fixed budget has helped in three ways. First of all, it’s encouraged us to prioritise, and think about what’s important. Secondly, a moderate amount of adversity is a challenge – we both like a challenge and it helps us both to be creative. Thirdly, we each know that we have realistic expectations this year (and one or two smart hints have been dropped, just in case).

I also have a quick checklist that I run though when I’m stuck for inspiration:

  • Has this person dropped a hint, or expressed admiration about anything (and can I afford that)?
  • What’s their personality like (homebody, foodie, creative, academic etc)?
  • What’s their style (personal, work, home, social)?
  • What are their hobbies, interests, preferences?
  • When are they their ‘best self’, rather than their everyday self?

Then I decide on one of three main gift categories:

  • Something to use up (food, drink, toiletries and cosmetics etc)
  • Something to keep (ornament, jewellery, electricals and other equipment)
  • Something to do (tickets, books, games, courses and memberships etc)

Whatever the budget, there’s usually something you can think of. A small, well chosen item might be just the thing.

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