Lisa Markwell: No presents this year, then. If I dare

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The Independent Online

The same conversation has been heard in my household for the past 18 Decembers. "Darling, I hope you haven't got me a Christmas present... I'm not getting you one. Don't you think that's sensible?" Yesterday, I heard the 2009 version, which had the added virtue and piquancy (or so he thinks) of chiming with the economic situation across the land.

Irritatingly, too, his thesis (and that of a great many men, if my friends and their husbands are to be believed) is now backed up by Professor Joel Waldfogel, whose studies have led him to advise against spending any money at all on Christmas presents. Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents For The Holidays, says there is always a discrepancy between the monetary value of gifts and the value the recipient puts on them, i.e. you're wasting precious funds if you flex your credit card in Selfridges, M&S or indeed anywhere else this festive season.

The temptation to tell Professor Waldfogel to bugger off back to his humbug-hued existence is huge. So what if Auntie Brenda doesn't love the White Company slippers you thought so soft and pretty; it is, as the hackneyed expression always rehearsed at this juncture goes, the thought that counts.

Waldfogel asked a sample group to rate gifts they received, both for what they thought the products cost, and what they thought they were worth. Overwhelmingly, the latter figure was less – a third less, in fact. So, roughly translated, if you spend £300 on all your Christmas gifts, you might as well chuck £100 of your budget in the bin. This theory is all so, well, Scrooge-like.

But then, but then. One must grudgingly admit that there are times when inspiration doesn't strike and in panic, we buy something expensive in the hope it will impress the person to whom it is given. Or we conduct the mental arithmetic that goes, "well, she usually spends £XX on me, so I'd better do the same". And that takes the fun out of the whole thing and makes it in to an emotionless transaction.

In the week that cyber-Monday saw around £400m spent in a single day on internet shopping, the panic is palpable, the general perception is that, despite it only being 10 December, time is too short to delay. But we all know how decisions made in haste (even over a pair of slippers) will be repented at leisure – like on Christmas Day when we see Auntie Brenda quietly slip the offending footwear back into its wrapping and making a mental note to re-gift it at the earliest opportunity.

Much as I hate to back up Professor Waldfogel and his bah-humbug cohorts (that's you, darling), should anyone be spending on fripperies and smellies when cash is still in short supply? At the very least, perhaps we (the overwhelmingly female legions who are steadfastly and simultaneously turkey ordering, tree decorating, relative wrangling and present buying) should spend 30 per cent less on presents to try and marry the cost and the value, and save some money into the bargain.

So my husband is the economically rational one... Who would have thought it? It's not that he and his kind can't be arsed to go down the shops and choose some tasteful lingerie or a beautiful leather-bound diary, silly. It's that they want to make sure we aren't disappointed by economic discrepancies. Thank goodness they are thinking so deeply about Christmas.

Perhaps, and you can see this punchline coming, I should buy him Professor Waldfogel's book for Christmas. Boom, boom!

When a dress acquires the status of great art

Who would pay £60,000 for a second-hand dress? Even if it only had one careful lady owner? Well, someone did, on Monday night, for the black lace confection worn by Audrey Hepburn, in the film How To Steal a Million.

Hepburn had a 22-inch waist, which narrows down (no pun intended) the number of women able to slither into one of her dresses even beyond the small number of women who actually have the funds for vintage couture. It really only leaves Victoria Beckham (a noted Hepburn obsessive) and, possibly, Anna Friel, currently playing Hepburn's most famous role in Breakfast at Tiffany's on the London stage, but neither were in the London auction house.

Whoever bought the beautiful item – and the other satin separates and tweedy suits, floaty wedding gown and ingenue prom dress – won't, perhaps, wear it but display it on a mannequin. I've always thought that proper couture is as elegantly constructed and has as lasting an appeal as much modern art so why not treat it as such?

One couture completist who keeps their finds out of the wardrobe and on the wall is US Vogue writer Hamish Bowles – but then he would, wouldn't he?

The jungle's the only place for Tiger

This time last week I miswrote: I said that Tiger Woods as adulterer was a rather dull prospect. Seven days, 10 mistresses, two prescription drugs and a mother-in-law with palpitations later, things have become rather more lively. Or too lively.

Now one of the golfer's endorsed products, the soft drink Gatorade Tiger Force, has been withdrawn. But it's not to do with the fact that the face of the brand has been revealed as a serial shagger. Oh no. "We decided several months ago to discontinue Gatorade Tiger Focus... to make room for our planned series of innovative products in 2010" says PepsiCo, the maker of Gatorade. Sorry, not believing that.

Of course Nike and Gillette, who also sponsor Woods, might not mind that their "face" is a player in more senses than they had imagined. But the tawdrification of Woods is so much worse than hearing that Kate Moss has been photographed taking drugs, or that Hugh Grant has been with a prostitute.

Woods must be bitterly wishing he hadn't been built up to be a clean-living icon – the distance he has fallen is so far that it'll take more than a fortnight in rehab or an appearance at a kids' hospital to fix this mess.

He will have to say he's got a sex addiction (it didn't do Michael Douglas's career too much harm) and build a long, slow rehabilitation in the world's eyes, while hoping that his wife, Elin Nordegren, can be "persuaded" to stick with him and while thanking his lucky stars that his children are too young to be taunted by classmates.

Either that or the only other option available: cut his losses, hook up with Katie Price and get himself to the nearest jungle.

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