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If you’ve got family and friends asking what you want this Christmas and you’re struggling for ideas I’m here to help.

This isn’t one of those gift list guides that crop up everywhere from glossies to blogs. They’re often just lists of overpriced items the writer has been sent for free. Rarely much use!

No, this is a very simple trick to not just give you a little bit of inspiration, but also help you spend less money on yourself throughout next year.

Struggling for gift ideas

I know lots of people never really know what to say when asked what they want for Christmas – me included.

It’s not that I don’t even need anything, it’s just that I always buy what I want or need when I need it, or for expensive things I save up until I’ve enough cash. So come December, my Christmas List is usually non-existent.

It really frustrates my family and I end up being given gifts which, being really honest, can be hit and miss. I’ve got to take most of the blame here. If I could just name what I want, it could avoid all this waste. Yet this year, once again, I’ve struggled for ideas.

But my friend Michelle said something the other day which was a revelation. As soon as she mentioned it, I couldn’t believe just how obvious it was. I suddenly realised I hadn’t ever properly thought about what I really need.

What to ask for

If someone asks what I would like, I’ve always thought about what I need at this moment in time. And that’s why I’ve struggled.

But the answer is to think beyond “right now”. Think about everything you frequently pay for throughout the year.

Ok, yes you might already get socks from your mum at Christmas, but what else do you need to resupply on?

Cosmetics and toiletries are a top option here. You will get through these, so you may as well stockpile without the worry that they’ll go off.

Booze is another good one, as with most there isn’t a best before date you need to keep an eye on.

But there will be many more expenses which aren’t things you buy in a shop.

Subscriptions for a start. If you pay for Netflix or Spotify every month, then why not ask someone to pay for it for a few months? Could someone buy you Amazon Prime for a year?

And if you’d be happy for someone to buy you Netflix, even the TV License could be a gift. Think about it. You get all the tv and radio channels, as well as the website. That’s not really any different than asking for a DVD or CD.

Do you have any memberships, perhaps to the National Trust or Picturehouse Cinemas? Again, perfect gifts. Even if the renewal date isn’t for a few months, you can still ask for money towards it.

If you go to any classes, clubs or activities, see if someone will buy a batch of them for you. Services are another area you could ask for as gifts. Think haircuts or massages.

You could push this idea further still. If you pay for a cleaner or gardener, ask for a contribution towards these costs. That might feel like it’s taking this idea too far. But the main reason people pay for these is to free up time to spend with their family. So it’s really a gift of time that is being given. I think that’s actually a top present.

Basically think about every regular cost you have. These are the things you need. These are where money spent on a present for you is going to actually be well spent.

But there is a limit – I’d only ask for money towards your other bills like energy or broadband if you’re really struggling to make ends meet!

Ask for money over gift cards

You probably could cover some of these expenses with gift cards – but I’d argue you’d be better off asking for money and making it clear how it will be spent.

With gift cards there’s always the risk that you’ll forget you’ve got them or lose them. Or, as we saw with House of Fraser recently, if a shop goes under there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to use any cards you’ve still not spent.

How to deal with people who don’t want to buy you a service or give you money

These aren’t perfect solutions. For one thing you can’t really unwrap any of these, except cosmetics or booze.

And this could be an issue for some gift givers. There’s often a reluctance to hand over money as a present. And even if someone is willing to do that, how often have you had people buy you little extras just so there’s something to unwrap?

It always annoys me when someone says “It’s the thought that counts”. No. I completely disagree. That’s only true if a gift is truly well intentioned but falls short. Yet even then I’d argue it would be better to not buy something than buy a gift someone doesn’t want.

And I hate waste. Yes there’s the environmental impact of unwanted gifts, which shouldn’t be forgotten, but I really, really hate wasted money – whether that’s my money or someone else’s. and I hate it even more if it can be avoided.

So if you’re happy to receive these as gifts then stick to your guns. Explain how they’ll help you through out the year. Share why the service, subscription or club are important to you. Tell them why you don’t need little extras you won’t use. Hopefully they’ll happily accept you gift request.

If not, it’s the gift giver who needs to think about why they are buying you something in the first place. If they then decide to just buy you something else there’s little you can do.

Yes, sometime a surprise gift can be spot on, and that’s fantastic. But let’s face it, they rarely are.

Finally, if you’re still to buy gifts, make sure you ask people what they want. If they’re struggling for ideas, maybe share this article with them – it could be the inspiration they need.

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