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Don't be guilt tripped into a big spend

THERE are layoffs at the North Pole.

The reindeers are on short time and the elves have taken a pay cut. Santa's getting the message out to mums and dads to pass on to their post-Celtic tiger cubs that it's a leaner Christmas this year.

It won't be about queueing for that must-have toy, or flying to New York to visit Santa's workshop. No — everybody's making do, or don't and, as our political masters might advise, it's time to manage expectations.

But how do you look a pensive, pleading eight-year old in the eyes and say ‘No’? Well, you start by realising that Christmas isn't about the gifts. It's all about the fun of gifting.

Sure, kids love unwrapping that shiny paper, fishing down into the stocking to produce the next Ooh or Aah, but those things can be achieved by simple gifts. Small kids especially, love quantity over quality.

Ask everyone to buy them three little things for under a tenner rather than a big gift for €50.

Do Kris Kindle for the adults — quality wins out over 14 pairs of socks and a Santa tie for Dad; how about three really nice bottles of wine instead? Mum would love a luxurious facial at a nice spa rather than a ton of bath salts, blouses and boxes of choccies, surely? Everyone's happier with their lot, and saved a fortune, too.

Yes, families all over the country are getting inventive at being economical. My own teenager showed a penchant for baking earlier this year. Capitalising on the post- Christmas goodies, she's getting her own set of cooking implements - cake mixes, funky cupcake holders and dinky cookie cutters.

Festive wellies to adorn any self-respecting festival are en route along with requests for foreign currency to family members for a school trip due up next year.

Supermarkets are desperate for business and offer great value in accessories, fun gimmicks and toiletries. Load up the trolley! Use up those loyalty card points, too — cash them in for extra stocking fillers. Parents will love the promise of some New Year babysitting or a bit of gardening in the spring. Put it in a home-made voucher — you'll be thanked!

As for the kids — if you're guilt-tripping, ask them about Christmas last year. If they can't remember the gifts, but have memories of the fun, joy and laughter — take it to heart.