Saturday 18 November 2017

Amanda Brunker: 'My boys won't get the presents they asked for this Christmas'

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

With only 27 days to the big day — yes, just 27 — now is as good a time as any to stress-proof your home from Christmas fear.

The longer you ignore the pending holidays, the greater the drama, and cost, you will encounter. So get the finger out and start some small preparations to safeguard both your purse and your mental health.

Obviously, not everyone celebrates Christmas, and to those families, my only suggestion is to make sure your children understand why they don’t take part in the festivities – in a caring way, instead of simply telling them, ‘We don’t do it.’

But for those who do celebrate the holiday, and for whom money is tight, it’s time to get your skates on, because presents don’t get any cheaper, unless you leave it until 3pm on Christmas Eve — and that sort of carry on is exasperating.

Even if you only start throwing in the odd roll of Christmas paper or plum pudding for granny into your weekly shop, it’ll save on the massive shopping bill come Christmas week when all the bargains will be gone.

Having grown up in Finglas, I am all too aware of how many people start borrowing money to pay for gifts. Why anyone would want to get themselves into debt over a commercialised holiday is beyond me, but it’s often those who don’t have much disposable cash that spend the most in these situations.

I know it’s pointless trying to steer certain people away from small loans and money lenders, they want their kids in the best trainers and to have the latest XBox, and that is their choice. But for those who can be swayed, please think twice about piling on the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, or whoever your flashy neighbours are.

For example, I for one have never encouraged the writing of the letter to Santa. Given half the chance, my sons would pen half the Argos catalogue. Have they missed out? Have they heck. It is always possible to direct your smalliess into thinking they want what you want them to have... And cost-effective presents should always be encouraged.

Both my sons want phones this year. Not just any phones, iPhones of course. Could myself and my husband provide them? Yes we could. Will my kids be waking up to iPhones on Christmas morning? Absolutely not.

This decision is made all the harder because practically every other kid in their fourth and fifth classes have phones. But as parents, we are allowed to say no to our kids. I will discuss my reasons another day, but my general point is that we get to call the shots, so don’t be pressurised because someone else’s kid moaned their parents into submission.

Aside from keeping the gifts within a manageable price range, budgeting your workload is also important to surviving the festive season.

Firstly, don’t offer to host Christmas if you’re working until 6pm on Christmas Eve and need to return first thing St Stephen’s Day. It’s not practical. It doesn’t matter if you always do it, you’ll be mentally and physically exhausted.

Be sensible or, at the very least, get others to cook.

And lastly, BOOZE. At 42, I’ve finally learnt to pace the big nights out. Try it yourself and protect your mental health this December.


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