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I can't afford Christmas presents

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 27 November 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,
My grandchildren always expect big expensive Christmas presents from me, but this year I just don't have the money to spend like I used to. I can't even afford to buy my daughter and son-in-law a gift.
I haven't told my daughter this, but I'm dreading Christmas Day because my son-in-law's parents are going to be there and I know they're very wealthy.  I can't bear the idea that my grandchildren are going to be disappointed by my presents or that they'll start to see me as the poor relation.  What do you suggest?

Patricia Marie says...

For most people who can't afford Christmas presents, the situation can create feelings of worry, disappointment and stress. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty - you are not obliged to celebrate Christmas by someone else's standards.

Don't be too proud to admit to your daughter you're having a tough time. Simply be honest and ask her to suggest something reasonably priced that the children would really like. Even a nice book linked to their favourite character would thrill them.

Children love looking at photographs, so perhaps you could make them their very own album, to include past and present family, which will give them great pleasure, and provide much enjoyment for the whole family.

With regards to your daughter and son-in-law, you could consider sending personal gift vouchers to include anything from an offer of two hours' ironing, to a day of spring cleaning or an overnight stay of babysitting - treats which I am sure will be very well received. This will also highlight the fact that the best gifts do not have to have monetary value.

As for trying to compete with your son-in-law's wealthier parents, do not  waste another moment worrying about that. Grandchildren love their grandparents in their many varied forms, indeed it is the most special relationship.
The true meaning of Christmas runs far deeper than a present could ever represent. Spend quality time with your grandchildren, give your daughter a helping hand with the extra work Christmas brings and remind everyone that Christmas is about love, not spending power.

That's what your grandchildren will remember in years to come - not some present, however lavish.

Have a dilemma? Please email  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Dear Santa

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

Festive fever

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Tuesday, 18 December 2012
I decide that this is the day to start the Christmas gravy. I like doing this early, so the flavours may mature. Then it’s just a question of adding all the lovely juices from the bird, on the actual day. This is such a domestic goddess plan that I practically fall over.

I run to the village shop to buy Madeira and Marsala. I’m not taking any chances. Actually, I can never quite remember which of them tastes more delicious so I generally throw in half a bottle of both. This year, I may also add some tawny port, for a certain je ne sais quoi. I explain some of this to the man in the shop. He seems marginally less fascinated by the subject than I.

All the time I am running around the village, the following things are running through my head:

Must get present for great-nephew. Can a boy have too many tractors? Answer, in his case: almost certainly not.

Must write Christmas cards. Must find out last posting day. Why am I even writing Christmas cards? I never send Christmas cards. I am up against a hard deadline, for the 3rd of January. Why I agreed to that date I do not know. I shall be writing chapter eighteen first thing on Christmas morning. There shall be no getting drunk on dry sherry and lying in. What was I thinking?

Parcels for the godchildren. Have to do parcels for the godchildren.

That present I got for my sister suddenly seems all wrong. I thought it so marvellously clever and delightful at the time, but now it looks somehow not quite right. This is the problem with doing Christmas shopping in advance. I did mind in November, believing myself to be gloriously organised and what my mother calls Ahead of the Game.

In fact, it is fatal, on two levels.

First of all, it lulls one into a false sense of security. I think, because the presents are bought, that I have got everything done. Then I end up running round the village in a panic, buying Madeira and thinking about tractors. Second of all, the object that looked so shiny and alluring a month ago may, with the simple passage of time, appear gimcrack and shoddy. Bloody hell, I think, what have I got in the present cupboard? (I will do anything not to go into Aberdeen which is, according to all reports, a zoo.)

Should I get a nice holly garland for the mantelpiece? I’m not having a tree so perhaps a garland will give the feeling of decking the halls. But what if one tiny spark from the fire shoots upwards and sets the thing alight and then the house burns down? I realise that, far from being in the proper Christmas spirit, I am catastrophising wildly.

Must make a special Christmas list. The To Do list is spawning itself in my head like one of those creatures on nature programmes which may have eight hundred babies at once. At least if I write it down, it might seem more manageable, and less like a hydra. But then I have to decide which of my forty-seven notebooks the Christmas list should go in, and this creates another impossible decision of its very own.

Must, for no known reason, buy panettone. I am suddenly convinced that Christmas is not Christmas without special Italian cake.

Must: write book, do blog, tidy house, feed horses, walk dog, wrap presents, go to post office, buy red roses (again, nobody knows why), get a ham, make watercress soup for strength, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and generally go faster.

Christmas, I think, I am exhausted just contemplating it. And all this is just me and a horse and a pony and a dog. I do not have four over-excited children, or a gaggle of parents-in-law, or even a husband to worry about. I have created this insanity in the privacy of my own head. I do not even read those publications which insist that if your house and your Christmas table do not resemble something in a glossy magazine you are officially a Bad Human. I have absolutely no idea where it all comes from. Perhaps it is a lady thing; perhaps I am biologically programmed, after all. Still, I suppose that at least it keeps my mind off the weather.

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