Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'I may not have the perfect gift – but I won't have the wrong one'

In The Red

Two weeks before Christmas, and it's time to start shopping. At least it's time I started – I have friends who started over a month ago, the organised bores, hitting the high street before the festive lights were even lit. And yet, for some reason, I can't quite get myself out of the door and into the shops.

It's not the crowds that I'm dreading – although I expect they're going to be pretty ghastly. Or the prices, off-putting as they may be. No, it's more the task of matching people to presents that gets me.

Just as papers start to produce the inevitable gift guides telling us what to buy this Christmas, it's at least as important to consider what not to buy. Because there's nothing more wasteful than an unwanted gift – a lesson I learned several years ago, after panic-buying my father an "ironic" calendar of Kylie Minogue posing in her smalls.

It could have been worse – I realised pretty quickly that it was a no-hoper and returned it before the 25th. Unfortunately, I chose to replace it with a Norah Jones CD – perhaps even less appropriate, and entirely without irony. It's yet to be taken out of its wrapping; in fact, the most worthwhile thing that could be done with it would be to donate it to Oxfam. A noble gesture – but not exactly what you want from a Christmas gift you've given.

Similarly unwanted were my home-made offerings the year before: hand-crafted candles, packets of freshly baked ginger-nuts and beaded jewellery. Not only were they all decidedly mediocre, but they ended up costing almost as much as their shop-bought equivalent.

So I'm taking no risks this year. I'll be avoiding the obvious pitfalls – the control-top pants, the racy calendars and Woolworths gift vouchers – and settling instead for safer options.

I've made a list of what not to get each person; a kind of back-up procedure to stave off worst-case scenarios. There'll be no bath salts for my mother, as she won't use them; no chocolate for my cousin, because he's lactose-intolerant; and no socks for anyone – I'm just not that desperate.

In fact, this Christmas I'll be shopping by process of elimination. I may not have the perfect gift idea for everyone but, if all goes according to plan, at least I won't have the wrong one.

So relatives: expect plenty of books. Friends: well, in the current climate you'll be lucky to get anything, but if you do, it'll be chocolate-coated. Boyfriend: edibles, as always.

And colleagues: ha, just kidding. As if I would buy presents for my colleagues.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments