In your mind’s eye, it’s October. You’re carefully selecting presents for your loved ones. You bring them home and wrap them with the kind of intricacy that would put Rowan Atkinson to shame. They are nestled in a neat pile in the cupboard, waiting patiently for the big day.

You open your eyes. In reality, half the office has been off ill for weeks, forcing you to work overtime. You’ve spent the last month being swamped by clients, slammed with meetings, and snowed under with paperwork. In reality, you’re in the 1 in 10 tearing their hair out because you’ve somehow left it all until Christmas Eve – and you have precisely four hours to buy thoughtful gifts for what feels like everyone you’ve ever met. Read our five top tips to avoid a total meltdown:

Generic Isn’t Always Bad

…But try to err on the side of decadence. A resplendent bouquet of roses is one thing; a wilting handful of carnations from the local garage is another. Similarly, a deluxe box of Thornton’s chocolates will likely get a different reaction to a five pack of Freddo’s. Use your head.

If You’re Seriously Pushed for Time

Four hours have somehow become two, and you’ve achieved…nothing. You’re wandering from one shop to another in a nauseous daze, picking up napkin rings and putting them down again, hysterically telling yourself that your mother-in-law has always secretly wanted a miniature toolkit. Stop this madness. Take a deep breath and go to the nearest department store. Some digging is required – but at least everything’s in one building (and most of it will now be on sale). Reduced cologne, designer socks, discounted candles: it’s all in there somewhere.


Forget About Online Shopping 

Don’t even think about it. Whatever dream of special/signed/guaranteed delivery you’re clutching onto, drop it immediately. It’s Christmas Eve. There’s more chance of Santa personally delivering it to your doorstep in a bikini than there is of it reaching you in time. The online Christmas shop is a luxury only the organised can afford. Let it go.

Kids Vary

If you need to shop for kids, take a practical moment to consider a) their age and b) your relationship with them. You have the right to give your own children as many sweets as their little milk teeth can handle, but is it wise to do the same for your boss’s diabetic toddler? They won’t have developed the ability to mask their disappointment if you make a critical error, so seek out a member of staff as soon as you walk into a toy store. Ask them for age-based advice of the child in question to avoid an uncomfortable situation. And if the kid is a teenager, don’t waste precious time trying to source a thoughtful gift: they will probably hate it. Gift cards or cash will get a much better reception – and you’ll have longer to shop for the person who will expect something thoughtful.

Invest in Christmas Back-Ups

It’s awkward when someone has unexpectedly spent their time and money selecting and purchasing a gift for you, only for you to have nothing to give them in return. So, get a couple of back-up presents for social emergencies. Booze, cookbooks, a boxset or two…it won’t do any harm. There’s the added bonus of padding out your original gift should you be met with any displays of excessive generosity “I forgot! There’s something else for you in the car.” Problem foreseen – problem solved.

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