There's no denying that for many of us the shine may be taken off this Christmas by the concern about the cost. It’s a rare and lucky person who has not been affected in some way by the ongoing recession. And yet in many cases, it is precisely because of this we want to give our loved ones something extra special this year.
Now we could bash the plastic and come home laden with fancy perfumes, designer labels and luxury goods. Anybody who’s been feeling the pinch would really appreciate a bit of pampering. But realistically, that's just storing up trouble for the future – unfortunately that plastic has to be repaid. So how about being more sensible and buying a small token, just so people know you care. Bubble bath, gloves, a CD or DVD - well, it's not going to break the bank, but it’s not going to serve any useful purpose either is it? In fact your well meant purchases will probably join a cupboard full of 'tokens' dating back several years and likely turn up at a car boot sale near you at some point in the future.
However, it IS possible to show you care, give the perfect present and not break the bank. As we increasingly live life at breakneck speed, never having enough hours in the day, how often do we wish that someone somewhere would gift us some extra time? And with every penny having to be watched, gardeners, window cleaners and handymen are now on the list marked 'luxuries'.
So before you pick out more fluffy slippers for your sister, decide whether she'd rather come home from her highly stressful job to find her ironing done.
Does your mother in law actually need another hot water bottle cover... or would she rather see her lawn mowed next summer?
Your best friend and her husband would love the odd night out, but just can't afford babysitters.
And granddad gets upset because he knows his living room needs a lick of paint but he's just not up to doing it any more.
Little nieces and nephews, who are already surrounded by a mountain of presents on Christmas day, would really like some to take them swimming sometime (double bonus for mum too!)
Even the teenagers – so impossible to buy for at the best of times – would probably appreciate the offer of a free pick up from the cinema a few times more than a DVD they can watch on line anytime.
The more you think about these things the more the possibilities become endless. And the joy is it DOES take a little bit of thinking about, and the recipient will know you've thought about them and their personal circumstances. Money can't buy that.
It's not difficult to design and print 'vouchers' on your PC tailored to the gift you are presenting. And if you really feel the need to give something ribbon wrapped, present them with a little parcel of homemade truffles or biscuits, or something relevant to the gift you are giving – a gardening magazine, a brightly coloured laundry sack, inflatable arm bands... you get the idea.
Make sure you keep track of what you've given, and make sure you chase up those on the receiving end to actually use them.
And why not have a think about whether there is anyone else who is worrying what to buy you – if so, why not share the idea? After all, there isn’t a single thing on the above list that I wouldn’t adore to get this Christmas!