It's 7 weeks to Christmas Day and as usual I am running late on my self-imposed deadline of 1st December for getting all my Christmas shopping done. No - I haven't even started!
It's not the big presents that pose the problem - it's easy (reasonably!) to set expectations about what Santa might or might not be prepared to lug across the skies in his overloaded sleigh.
But if, like us, you give your kids a Christmas stocking as well as their main present, you're probably familiar with the last minute running round, head scratching and the worry that you've spent almost as much on the stocking contents as you have on the main present or worse, forgotten something really important.
As a child, I had one of dad's walking socks which was usually filled with the same thing each year - an apple, an orange, some Walnuts and Hazelnuts (in shells), a tiny box of miniature liqueurs (!) and a tube of either Rowntrees Fruit Gums or Fruit Pastels. Occasionally, Santa would go mad and supply Smarties or Chocolate Buttons instead. There might be a teeny tiny book of poetry (one year I got a miniature copy of Shakespeare's MacBeth too or, memorably, one year we had a cap gun. My sister and I went through a phase of pretending to be Charlies' Angels and arguing about who was Jill and who was Kelly. Sabrina was always a bit too scary.
So I suggest you set a firm budget and write a list. If you've got more than one child you have to make sure the financial value is the same (kids somehow know these things) but here are some ideas. These will obviously vary depending on the age of the child but Caitlin will be 9 and Ieuan will be 7.
These lists need not be gender specific of course but simply reflect what my two would like.
You can pick up lots of cheap and cheerful stocking fillers in places like Poundland, Wilko and ASDA - there is no need to break the bank if your budget is tight.
Girls Stocking Fillers
Nail wraps / Nail varnish
Gift card (e.g. New Look, Claires Accessories)
Notebook or diary
Flavoured lip balm
Scented pens (have a look in Smiggle or Flying Tiger)
Chocolate coins / selection box
Craft items - stickers, writing sets, crafting kits
Purse / key ring / mobile phone charms
Hair bands / bobbles, glitter spray
Bubble bath / hand cream / body lotion /body spray
CDs or iTunes voucher
Shopkins / Magiki Mermaids
Incidentally one of the best presents I remember from my mum was a washbag full of perfume and cosmetic samples - mini body lotions, soaps, a travel toothbrush and a pretty flannel. You could do the same by saving up the freebies that come with magazines or your hotel toiletries.
Boys Stocking Fillers
Craft kits / tracing paper / colouring books
Pencils and paint kits
Dinosaur cards / Top Trumps
Mini Lego sets / Playmobil Figures
Character Flannel (Ieuan's outgrown Spiderman, now it's Star Wars)
Activity sticker books
Character bubble bath or toiletries
Horns / bells for bikes
Paper aeroplane set
Chocolate coins / selection box
And then there are our pets to consider. Not everyone bothers of course but for many their pet is an equal member of the family and gets treated at Christmas too. There's the additional stress of what to give the pet who has everything!
You can't go wrong with new bedding, leads or collars, a new food or water bowl, a squeaky toy and some doggie or kitty treats. But please, no chocolate!
Actually, now I think of it, Christmas shopping is a lot easy for your pet than your kids, isn't it?!
Do you budget for a stocking for your kids or pets? How to control the costs and what do you include? I'd love to know.