Eight tips on buying Christmas presents

Credit: Christmas Stock Images

Firstly I’d like to thank anyone who’s read any of my articles this semester. I’ve greatly enjoyed writing them, and I think at least one or two people have enjoyed reading them. In fact, one anonymous reviewer recently called me “potentially as good as” Jamie Ross of The Stand. I think there’s a compliment in there somewhere. Either way I look forward to writing more next semester.

Anyway, it’s getting to that time of year when we’re all starting to look forward to Christmas. Even the combined fresh hell of early exams and not having had a break all semester surely cannot dampen our spirits as we look forward to the happiest time of the year.

As students, most of us are at that glorious time in life, in limbo between childhood and adulthood, when we have the independence of adults, but are treated like children when we go home for Christmas. Although I try to be grown-up about it, there’s something about your mother asking you for your “Christmas list” that makes you feel a bit like a seven-year-old, making his demands and hoping for this year’s latest toy, rather than this year’s latest socks.

Obviously, Christmas commercialism is unhealthy and damaging to everything that makes us human beings. But if we can’t change that, let’s at least try to get it right. So if you’re buying presents for friends or family this year, here are eight tips I offer you, as a fellow capitalist, to get it right.

Tip #1: Don’t give people gift vouchers under any circumstances. If you want to give them a present, give them a present. If you want to let them choose their own present, give them the money. Just because you exchange your real money for restricted money that can only be used in WHSmith, that doesn’t mean you’re being thoughtful. It just means your present to them this year is likely to end up being stationery.

Tip #2: Don’t force responsibility on people. While you may think brewing your own ginger beer would be the most exciting hobby in the world for your friend or loved one, there’s a good chance it won’t be their thing, and social norm dictates that they will then have to take up the hobby and appear to love it. Make sure you’re giving someone a present, not an obligatory timesink. This especially goes for things like sports gear and huge novels.

Tip #3: If you have to recycle last year’s presents, at least take the tag off first. Also try to ask yourself, given that you didn’t want it, whether anyone else will.

Tip #4: Don’t give them something that can only be used at Christmas. There was a time in my life when I was unable to wear about a third of the clothes I owned for eleven months of the year. I don’t care how cute you think that Christmas jumper/hat looks, if I can’t wear it in February when it’s even colder, I don’t want it.

Tip #5: Don’t give them something stupid. If you can’t think of anything good to give someone, give them a Mars bar, not a novelty dancing pen or a holepunch shaped like Homer Simpson. If in doubt, imagine what would happen if someone gave it to you. Would you cherish this hilarious novelty item for years to come, or would you put it in a cupboard in January and throw it out in June when the giver has forgotten about it?

Tip #6: Don’t buy me shower gel. I can buy my own fucking shower gel.

Tip #7: Be very careful indeed that you don’t buy a present for yourself. Don’t go buying something “for the house”, because we all know what that means. And wait at least six months before asking to borrow any CDs you give, or if you’re sneaky like me, rip them to your computer before you even wrap them.

Tip #8: Try not to wrap your presents over-zealously. I’m okay with prudent amounts of paper, especially if the present is coming in the post, but when I have to get a knife from the kitchen just to open the thing, it feels a bit like you’re trying to deny me access. And when there are precious and delicate wires inside, I worry I’m about to stab the no-doubt lovely gift you’ve given me.

I hope you’ve found some of these tips helpful, or I at least hope you pass them onto someone who will. And most importantly you need to remember all of these for when you’re a real-life grown-up with your own children coming home from university. If I’ve stopped just one child’s auntie giving them Calvin Klein boxers for Christmas in the distant future, it will all have been worth it.

Merry revision week, and a happy new exam season!


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