Christmas? Thriftmas!

I have run out of sellotape. The universe is clearly signalling me to stop shopping for Christmas presents and I am happy to do so.

The truth is, I’d largely finished my Christmas shopping by the beginning of November.

My friends gasp when I tell them this. They perceive me as a chaotic, harum-scarum type not to be trusted with Parent Teacher Association responsibilities.(Hurrah! It worked! No PTA meetings for me!)

In fact, I am a highly disciplined person in disguise. How I love to confound them!

I have become one of those women my mother (a serial-forgetter-of-birthdays type) detested: I buy my Christmas crackers for the following year at the end of December and I start my Christmas shopping in January.

Not a mid-season sale, an online exclusive or 48 hour promotion goes by without my purchasing presents and squirrelling them away.

Call me thrifty, but Martin the MoneySavingExpert is on my side. He’s made millions from stating the bleedin’ obvious: buy early and spread the cost.

When you are dripping with godchildren (to say nothing of your own), have a large, extended family, a sizeable stash of friends and colleagues plus some stragglers you met on holiday and can’t shake off,  the last thing you want in December is a smoking credit card and a red hot overdraft.

I have learnt this the hard way. “Christmas comes once a year, but it takes twelve months to get over it,” I’d sigh as my January bank statement combusted in my hands.

Experience they say, is a great teacher and over the years, I’ve got the whole present buying thing down to a fine art.

Somewhere in the process of maturation I stopped worrying about fancy drawers and concerned myself instead with Present Drawers.

Forget other signs of adulthood – mortgages, promotions, thinning hair and Avios points – the Present Drawer is the only signifier that matters.

I have organised things so that, in the (I hope unlikely) event I should pass on to the great shopping mall in the sky unexpectedly early, the birthdays and Christmases of around 84 friends and relatives have been catered for in the short term. The Present Drawers will deliver.

It takes patience to cope with a Present Drawer however. I have put things in my Present Drawer that I really, really wanted to give the recipient straight away just because I was so excited to have found the perfect present for them.

I remember however, a lesson my younger brother taught me when he was five and I was six. My mum had bought him a present to give me for my birthday and they had wrapped it together.

He was beside himself with excitement at the prospect of bestowing on me a super something (there is joy in giving!).

“Go on then,” I goaded him, “what is it?”

Because it was supposed to be a secret and because he didn’t want my mum to hear, he whispered in my ear.

I heard, ‘wobble pads’.

And then I was the one careering through the cosmos of excitement.

I had no idea what wobble pads were but they sounded amazing! I couldn’t wait for my birthday to arrive.

Womble Pants. Featuring Tomsk, Tobermory, Orinoco, Wellington and Great Uncle Bulgaria. The Chippendales of the children’s entertainment world.

I came crashing back to earth and never again asked to know what was coming my way for a birthday or Christmas.

Patience is key in the advance preparation of Christmas but the upside of this approach at least is that you never have to go through actual Christmas shopping.

I know it’s supposed to be the Season of Goodwill to All Men, but that’s a bloody struggle at West Quay (insert name of large retail park close to you) on Black Friday. On days when I’ve found myself crushed in John Lewis by shoppers looking for trampolines, penguins and knitwear for snowpeople, I realise that I have a deep misanthropic streak.

I hate the excessive retail fest that Christmas is in December. I don’t want to be encouraged to buy more than I need by an assistant in an elf hat shoving cheap chocolate under my nose while I queue for a quarter of a mile at the check out.

Take it from me, Christmas shopping is so much nicer in May.

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  1. I agree with you,although I rarely buy Christmas presents these days. When I did I always bought them throughout the year.

  2. My favourite Christmases were when I was living in Bangkok. A pretty sight was to be had around almost every corner in the main city. Many of the the larger hotels and department stores being beautifully decorated and having huge, impressive trees outside and in – but nobody seemed to be doing any present buying or even talking about it.