There are few sentences I find more terrifying when uttered by my big sister than “Please don’t buy me a present. I don’t need anything.”
How on earth can you buy a gift for someone who can be notoriously difficult to please, gives you no clues, but may be mortally offended if the gift you inevitably buy isn’t to their liking? Queue endless worrying and overspending.
However, since reaching my 40s, I have decided that I am never fretting over things like this again. And anyway, why do I always just go with the same tired old gift ideas?
Break free from the same old, same old
After some cogitating and head scratching, this year I am breaking free of the usual ‘elbows at dawn’ high street shopping experience, and turning my back on my old friend online shopping that normally leaves the Amazon delivery man and I on first names terms by the 24th December.
Instead, I’m going with the ‘more thought and less pre-packaged’ type of gift.
Given my occupation I could bore everyone with premium bonds, certificates for ‘Free financial makeovers’, or even start little pensions for the younger ones, but I fear I may be disowned. So I’ve come up with some alternative options.
My big sister
Don’t laugh but I have bought that impossible-to-buy-for big sister of mine a pile of poo. I kid you not. Literally.
I have a lovely gift card from Oxfam with a splendid picture of poo emblazoned on the front and the banner ‘I bought you a pile of poo’. You can get a printed gift card posted out in a few days, or even one emailed instantly if you need a last minute gift.
I opted for gift aid which boosts the amount the charity receives by an extra 25p for every £1 donated. And, if I note it on my self-assessment tax return, it helps me to pay less tax too. This idea really is the gift that just keeps on giving!
My little sister
I’m giving my younger sister with very young children, a large box containing all the things I would have gnawed off my own right arm for when I was at her stage of parenting.
In the box there’s an excellent bottle of wine, some incredibly good ear plugs, the softest cosiest pyjamas, and a certificate stating that I will give her at least one night a month babysitting for 12 months, thus giving the most sacred of all parenting gifts…time ‘off duty’.
My own teenage children
Teenage children are notoriously tricky and never so much as when you need to buy them a gift.
I know it’s my own fault, but they really do have too much ‘stuff’ and I don’t think adding to the tech I spend my life getting them to put down is a recipe for a harmonious 2019. So I’m going with experiences.
My sport mad daughter will be the proud owner of a Sports pass that gives her a number of free tickets to both the local football and rugby.
My elder daughter (14) will be whisked away to the town she keeps telling me she will live in when she is grown up and an architect (Brighton in case you were wondering). I have a quirky hotel booked. We will ‘do’ Brighton in style and then use the voucher I’ll be giving her to make a photo book of the trip, as a reminder of what a (hopefully) wonderful time we had.
My ‘millennial’ niece
My niece is lovely but frankly a financial liability. I have offered to help her get to grips with her troublesome finances but she isn’t keen, so I have opted for a book.
Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry. It’s written for the American market but is full of easy and effective things even the most laid back 20 something can take on board. It promises to help them ‘Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and Get Your Financial Life Together (#GYFLT)!’ and is full of millennial speak that seems to make sense to these lovely but mystifying folk!
So that’s me nearly sorted, but I’m seemingly not the only one struggling. My parents are pulling their hair out too.
I’ve suggested that Ma and Pa start a fund for each grandchild, to be enjoyed later in life when they need it most. It doesn’t have to be a large sum or even be the same amount each time they want to add to it.
And the ‘Brucie bonus’ here is…they will be reducing their estate for tax purposes at the same time, which means they’re giving my sisters and I a much appreciated gift too!
‘Normal gifts’ out of your income – such as those given at Christmas – will not attract inheritance tax provided you are able to maintain your standard of living after making the gift.
There are, of course, plenty of other ways to reduce your inheritance tax bill. Giving to charity or making certain types of investment are just two. If this sparks some interest in your parents as it did mine, contact your independent financial adviser for more details.
So what about me? What am I hoping for? I think a good night’s sleep and a large bar of Green and Blacks chocolate, washed down with a well-made gin and tonic while hanging out with my family will do me just fine.
Obviously I’ve told my family “Please don’t buy me a present. I don’t need anything”. Let’s see what they come up with shall we…
What ‘outside of the box’ ideas have you had this year? Let us know by adding a comment below.