There’s nothing that says ‘tight at Christmas’ like turning up at someone’s house, them giving your child a present, and you not even having a card for the family – let alone a reciprocal gift.
It’s a complete festive stitch-up. Especially if you’ve never normally bought presents for the parents, pre-kids. What are the rules? Is it a blanket ‘give everyone under 18 something’? Or is it just those you see more than once a month?
There was a time when I could count on two hands the number of people I had to get gifts for.
But now, it’s anyone’s guess where the buying ends. The thing is, you have kids, then suddenly look around and it turns out everyone you know has been having kids too. And then there are the friends your kids make at clubs, at school, the children of colleagues at work. Where does it end?
To top it off, this all comes at a time when you couldn’t be more skint. The work minus childcare and bills equation leaves about enough for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc as a weekend treat, so the thought of buying more presents than ever before is, frankly, a bit daunting.
After going through a series of toe-curling embarrassments, and misjudging presents last year, I thought I’ve got to take action.
So I decided to just ask.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.
Well, I do. I didn’t want to come across all ‘bah humbug’.
But surely it’s worse to meet a mum friend-of-a-friend for a coffee at the library, have her give Nancy, my one-year-old daughter, a totally thoughtful present, while I try and pretend that my offering for her son is in the car, which my boyfriend’s gone to work in, otherwise I’d of course be giving something back. For example.
So. I texted all my mates with kids and asked whether we’re going to be giving each other stuff this year. I wrote and rewrote it about a million times so that it didn’t sound massively mean.
And it turned out half the people said not to bother, and those that said we should exchange presents, suggested a capped amount.
Now, I wish I had been super organised and got stuff in the January sales last year. But to be honest, last January I had a four month old baby, and it was all I could do to leave the house with clean teeth and my house keys.
But the one plus-side to a double-dip recession is that the shops are desperate for custom, so half of them have brilliant sales on now. And on top of that, if you spend 10 minutes having a quick nosey online, you can find out where the best bargains are before heading into the pram-unfriendly world of the town centre. As well as seeing if there are any offers or vouchers available for shops.
I’ve almost definitely missed at least one child out this year. And it’s guaranteed to be the son or daughter of one of my most generous friends, who’s spent the last twelve months hand crocheting Nancy a blanket.
So next year, it’s going to be different.
I’m going to buy everyone’s presents with my first pay cheque of 2013, ticking off the names from a laminated list of recipients, while simultaneously writing everyone’s addresses in my best handwriting in a new book, so we don’t have to go through the bins to find the packaging which may or may not contain a return address.
But that’s next year.
Let’s just get through this year first, before the life-changing transformations begin.