I am the proud aunt of six nieces and nephews. They range in age from seven to fourteen. But very soon indeed, they will range in age from eight to fifteen.
Grown-ups, you see, understand things. They understand that I am strapped for cash, and are generally content with a thoughtful 'wee minding', as my Gran used to say. And even if they are slightly huffed, at least I won't eternally damage their self-esteem.
Children, however, measure your love by your present. My presents over the years have been a visible, tangible sign of my adoration. Not that they have ever been particularly expensive or large, but I have tried to target them appropriately. I have not always succeeded. Well do I remember forking out more than the norm one Christmas on a Barbie Duvet Cover, only to have my then 6 year old niece sidle up to me and whisper hopefully, "Auntie Frannie, have you bought me just one present?"
So what shall the Frugal Aunt do? How shall she remain both Frugal and Favourite?
Careful shopping is required. I have set a budget of £5 per child, not including the card. And here is what I have found so far.
You can easily spend over £2.50 on a card. Avoid the big card stores and the classy crafty ones. Marks and Spencer sell lovely big cards for £1. Barnardos - and possibly other charity shops as well - sell nice cards for about 75p. Even cheaper, check out your local bargain book store, where I got two very pretty ones for £1. Best of all, Tescos is currently selling cheerful cards for 25p, perfectly suitable for children.
Presents for an 11 Year Old Girl
If yours is the kind of niece that loves pink sparkly stuff, then your task is easy. Just go into any Claire's Accessories shop, and buy anything. However, my niece, an unusual child, isn't too fussed about pink sparkly stuff, but does love sudoku and craft work. The bargain book store came up trumps, with a neat little £2.99 box of sudoku puzzles, which had originally retailed at £6.99. In fact, such shops are very good shopping locations generally, with plenty of colourful picture books for younger children, and other nice gifts such as glossy gardening or cook books.
Meanwhile, Hobbycraft is selling small craft projects that are great for slipping in with a card. For example, this pom-pom chicken family costs only £1.49, or for the same price you could buy a small scraper foil kit. There is also a option of cute little pom-pom kitten or dog keyrings, for £1.99. My niece is more than capable of making these herself, and would spend a happy couple of hours putting them together. A small but thoughtful present.
So all told, in my case, my niece's birthday has cost me £5.48.
Add that to the bus fare for today, and some food shopping, and today's expenditure is £14.36