It's tough to know what to do for gifts, especially if you have a big family with relations that you don't see that often. You end up getting anything that springs to mind, regardless of whether it's what the recipient wants or not. Or if you do ask, you get the most maddening reply in the world–"oh, just get me anything." There's a reason the shop shelves at Christmas are filled with seasonal tat. It keys into the mentality that at this time of year you must buy, and buy hard.
I chose to opt out a few years ago, insisting that no-one bought for me, and that I would only get gifts for kids and grandparents. It makes life much simpler, but I appreciate that my approach doesn't work for everyone. What do you do, then, if you're faced with the same old Xmas dilemma?
The Money Saving Expert site, run by financial guru Martyn Lewis, has come up trumps with suggestions. Like me, Martyn is no fan of buying for the hell of it. This year, he and his team have come up with a range of charity gift-giving ideas that neatly toe the line between budget and thoughtfulness. They mostly work like gift cards, which is why they're called virtual gifts.
Some of the old saws are in there, like the Oxfam "buy-a-goat-for Christmas" voucher, but there's a wide range of fun ideas in the list. Martyn says:
Virtual charity gifts are less wasteful than buying tat and are far closer to the Christmas spirit. From helping to save lives with vital vaccines, to buying livestock for villagers to help them become self-sufficient, your donation really could change lives for the better.We especially like Unicef's "deliver a baby" kit, which supplies vital midwifery supplies and medicines, and Good Gift's "adopt-a-vegetable" which helps to save rare varieties from extinction. But there's plenty to choose from. It's a list of ideas that will help you buy well and do some good this festive season.
And let's face it, it has to be better than braving the high street this weekend, right?
Find the Charity Gift Guide list on the Money Saving Expert site here.