Jo Seagar gives her top tips on how to stay calm and solvent over Christmas

A how-to guide for an (almost) frazzle-free festive season.

Some people prefer not to even think about Christmas until the first of December.
That's mostly men who, let's face it, rarely get too involved in making the festive season all fairy tale fabulous, memorable and bright.
I love Christmas and to make sure I really enjoy it, I like to kickstart my "to do" list early.
This year, I'm determined not to overspend, over-schedule, overindulge or over-complicate the whole Christmas scenario (although I say this every year).
Image: Getty Images
First on the list is gift-giving. Growing families, pressure on budgets and the new trend for simplicity mean it might be time to negotiate the gift-buying rules.
I've got in nice and early, letting everybody know the deal. Christmas 2019 is very definitely all about the children. I'm writing this at the top of the list and I'm sticking to it.
Christmas gift buying should never involve impulse buys or too much flexibility – you need a list. With my list in hand and my shopping mantra playing on repeat in my head – "I will stay calm and solvent"– I will be hitting the malls early, doing online searching and possibly even some online shopping.
My focus is very much on making it easier for myself.
Perhaps it's a good idea to set a price limit on gifts. Have a quick chat with the sisters and sisters-in-law, or whoever does the gift buying. I don't think this is the time for any sort of democracy, just send around a group email saying: "I think we should set a limit of say $25-$35 (or whatever) per child, what do you think?" This way they know where you sit on the issue.
Once you've agreed, you need to stick to the plan, well sort of anyway. Just because a gift for one child costs a little bit extra doesn't mean you love one any more than another. You know it and they know it, so stay calm and remember the big issue is solvency.
Over the years, I've hit on gift ideas that are real winners – they've shortened my hard-to-buy-for list and had me in the running for coolest godmother, granny and aunt.
Teenagers, especially boys, are challenging, but there are a few things that have impressed the boys on my list: digital touch gloves that allow you to text while keeping your hands toasty; gift cards loaded with cash for favourite fast foods (think Subway); jumper leads for the car – you never know when they will be a lifesaver.
My all-time favourite gift for this age group is a solidly made can opener that will last a lifetime. Throw in cans of chilli beans or spaghetti to make the parcel more substantial. Just right if your young ones are going flatting or heading for a student hostel.
Teenage girls are easier, with the huge variety of beauty products and delicious smellies on offer, but also remember everyone needs basics.
You could go for luxury sunblock, an after-sun aloe cream, lip gel or a decent mozzie repellent. Vouchers for a manicure or pedicure are always welcome.
Metal milkshake straws with a little cleaning brush are popular this year, or buy a cool reusable mug or smoothie container (great for encouraging greenie kids to use less disposable stuff and save the planet).
Little children love personalised gifts such as this family of Lego characters
I also buy quality kitchen tools – a hand-held grater, silicon spatulas or solid measuring cups and spoons.
All children love cooking, so a springform cake tin, apron and packet of cake mix will go down well. What about a vege spiralizer or a kit to make dumplings or sushi?
Little children love personalised gifts – get their name embroidered on beach towels or pencil cases and you can throw in goggles or floaties, or fill the pencil case with felt pens.
My little grandsons had fun with their paper punch and stapler sets last year. Add coloured paper and a roll of sticky tape and you're onto a winner. And, as they often remind me, you can never have too many stickers Granny!
One sure-fire hit is turning the whole family into Lego characters – you send a photograph or mention favourite hobbies or interests and the website minifigs.me handles the rest.
Keep in mind the whole point of Christmas giving, and in turn its true gift, is the connection of families and togetherness. The object is to feel all warm and fuzzy about the season – not frazzled.

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