Wednesday, January 16

ADVICE: Presents and presence

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Instead of spending fortunes, make gifts and remember single people have one income

EXPERTS: We rounded up experts from around the globe to answer those niggly gift questions

Q What is a good hostess gift you can buy in bulk and give to a number of people?

A I love gifting candles, but I also love creating personalised ornaments. You can buy the ornaments in bulk and decorate them uniquely. – Designer Taniya Nayak

Q For three years, I’ve exchanged small but thoughtful, Christmas gifts (tea, toiletries) with a friend, a practice she initiated. We exchange them wrapped and thank each other then, but open them on Christmas. Not once has she acknowledged or thanked me for the gift, despite my doing it every year. Her behaviour may just be a difference in upbringing. I am left wondering if she lost the package before opening it, or hated the gift and didn’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me.

A After three years, yes, it’s clear you two have different styles. She thanks you in person and doesn’t follow up later. You want her to know how much you liked that particular gift (a sweeter scenario). Can you live with her way, if it doesn’t change? Prodding for follow-up might be awkward, ineffectual at changing her habits, or both. This isn’t a situation where you send a huge wedding gift, receive no acknowledgement and have a valid need to know if your gift card/dishware/glow-in-the-dark ball was lost in the mail. No, this is her being too busy/absent-minded/averse to thank you cards. It would be nice of her to do it, but if she’s not up to the task, you must decide: Is the giving still worth it for you?

Q I am single (so one salary), but there is an expectation that I will be the family member travelling for the holidays, and that I need to buy everyone a present. Financially this time of the year ruins me. Help.

A Single people in some ways have more freedom, but they also have constraints that are rarely recognised. One of the biggest constraints is financial. Those who live alone are paying rent or mortgage, utilities and everything else out of one pay cheque while couples who live together often have two pay cheques to cover one set of expenses. For every gift jointly given by a couple, a single person bears the entire cost and often only receives one gift in return. With the economy as it is, perhaps as a family rather put money together to jointly buy for the children only. If the single person has had to fork out for a flight, let that be the present of presence. – Bella DePaulo, author of “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After”.

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