Secrets of Success

Every year it’s the same old scenario. I start out by promising myself that I’ll just go for the bare minimum when it comes to buying Christmas presents. No over-buying. No stressing. No trying to order my sister a limited-edition pair of UGG boots (it’s her heart’s desire!) and bursting into tears when they’re not delivered on time. And then every year I end up feeling yet again that, no, I can’t do Christmas gift-buying unless I make it into a really competitive life challenge and find The Ultimate Gift for Everyone. Why on earth do I set myself to fall so far short of my own expectations? And why has something like gift-giving – an activity that should fill us with utter joy – become some kind of blood sport? I blame myself. Because the more I think, ‘Let’s not go overboard this year…’ the wider I know my eyes will be when I eventually see my credit card bill. It’s like banning yourself from chocolate.

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Then the only thing in the world you want to eat is chocolate. And so it goes with my Christmas list. Instead of reining it in, I usually start adding even more names to the list of people to buy for: people whose Facebook posts I really like, but who I hardly ever see in real life; the neighbour I speak to once a year; and the nursery school assistant I really like even though my kids haven’t been in nursery school for three years… It’s pathetic. I realised it was getting out of hand when I saw a brooch in a vintage shop and thought, ‘That would be perfect for my daughter’s teacher.’ I have spoken to this woman maybe once in my life and I doubt she even knows my name. Worse still, I bought it and then felt far too embarrassed to give it to her, because it was way too personal a gift and she might have thought that I was going to stalk her…

Great lengths There are some people who are the beneficiaries of my lunacy, though. Or at least I hope they think they are getting good gifts from me. I have one friend who loves fireworks and chilli, and every year I go to great lengths to find him the most extreme explosive items made for eyes and mouth in the universe. This almost caused an international incident when he took my still-wrapped Christmas gift (it was an indoor fireworks display) on holiday with him and he had to go through customs – I think that it got confiscated.

But what a waste of a great gift. The worst thing though? It seems like the harder you work to find someone the most perfect present on earth, the more likely they are to give you a pair of purple tights (thanks, Auntie Iris). Or maybe you’ll get a box of chocolates where the sell-by date is coming up so fast it almost certainly indicates re-gifting. Which, of course, is code for: ‘Absolutely no thought has gone into this’. So, this year I promise – finally – that I’ll definitely get it under control and be casual and frugal and sensible.

I will not behave like I am five years old and buying all these things for myself with imaginary, magic money. But I do just need to buy this clutch for my sister first. And maybe the matching dress? Ooh, there are shoes that come with it, too? Not to buy the whole ensemble would be a little bit Scrooge-like, wouldn’t it? Oh dear.

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