By Poorna Shetty
The recession’s favourite slogan might be “the best things in life are free”, but when it comes to yuletide presents, that just won’t cut the mustard. With the same level of high expectations this Christmas but with less money than ever to fund it, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of us are taking advantage of the money-saving vouchers flooding our inboxes for holiday shopping and frolicking.
The question is: where do you draw the line between being a savvy saver and a cheapskate?
Presents are tricky turf, but I like to think I’m channeling the sensible, discreet demeanour and etiquette of a 1950’s gentlewoman, rather than someone being mean with money. And in the same way the war-time rationing made coupons and thriftiness the norm rather than embarrassing exception, it seems that this recession has made economising an acceptable social grace and topic of conversation, as well changing the way we shop.
Anita Naik, author of The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Living The High Life On A Budget, says: “It’s affected the mindset to shopping. We shop a lot more online but have greater means now to save some money. Plus when it comes to presents, you’re still spending your own money, but just less of it.”
Social commentator Peter York concurs, saying that if you use a voucher to get someone a present that they really want (and save yourself money in the process), then you should be congratulating yourself. Lord knows there are plenty of new online sites to help you, including VoucherKing.co.uk – a shopping site aimed at men – bearing the motto: “Live like a King, spend like a pauper.”
But while it’s still going to take some time to desist in emotional self-flagellation after I got my boyfriend’s present for half-price, it’s strangely comforting to know that we’re all in on it. The ubiquity is what makes it acceptable, as long as you abide by the two main rules of course:
1) Never recycle a gift (bad retail karma)
2) Put some thought into it (which often goes much further than an expensive personality-free present).