If we conducted an anonymous poll as to whether the population would like to forego exchanging Christmas presents this year, I would imagine that somewhere in the order of 90 per cent would vote in favour.
Just as the credit crunch and subsequent recession have proved to be an ideal opportunity for companies to take tough cost-cutting decisions and blame it on the general financial meltdown, does this not apply to us all as well?
Over the last ten years or so, a number of companies have stopped sending Christmas cards to their clients and instead have made a donation to a charity - what a much better use of the money.
In the corporate world, gifts to staff are now limited in value, even including the traditional Christmas party, otherwise the benefit in kind tax can be levied on generous festive gifts and entertainment.
Corporate gifts to customers and suppliers have to be very carefully monitored due to possible accusations of inducement and bribery.
My own firm has to keep a register of all entertainment and gifts received. If requested, this list has to be made available to the Financial Services Authority to evidence that our independence is not being compromised by generous hospitality from one or more companies.
Christmas however brings an even more difficult issue, that is the present you simply have no use for and really wish had never been bought for you.
You can see them now, awful ornaments that you would simply never display in your house, sweaters or hats that you would not be seen dead wearing, books on history that you have no intention of ever reading.
A new book, Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents For The Holidays, has just been released, interestingly just in time for the Christmas gift market! The author Joel Waldfogel explains why the Christmas gift market is all a big waste of money.
He explains: “When other people choose for us they do a poor job compared to when we choose for ourselves.” Apparently £87 billion per year worldwide is spent on festive items and of this, £15 billion could be wasted.
The author, an economist who delivered a public lecture on the subject at the London School of Economics last week, is not advocating the end of Christmas presents as a concept.
“We do pretty well in buying things for people we know well and children would be devastated if they didn’t get presents,” he added.
His solution to the buying of unwanted presents problem is to present people with gift vouchers so they can choose goods they actually like.
This makes good sense and can also be a neat way of avoiding the pitfalls of the generation gap. Wouldn’t your average teenager prefer a gift voucher so they can choose the music they want rather than presenting them with someone they might not like or already have? Waste creeps into the system when we buy for people that we do not know well or simply to reciprocate for a gift received.
It is well known how personal debt increases over Christmas as people borrow, often when they cannot afford it, to purchase what they perceive to be necessary gifts.
Not only that, it always riles me to see the waste spent on wrapping paper, gift tags and packaging which is subsequently simply torn up and binned.
Perhaps all is not lost though. Recent episodes of Life On A Victorian Farm on television have been drawing a huge audience as people re-associate with periods of austerity and do-it-yourself.
Filmed locally in the West Midlands at Henley Cottage on the Acton Scott Estate in the picturesque South Shropshire Hills, you’d think a slow-paced world without washing machines, gas, electricity or flush toilets would be of little interest in our fast moving times.
But the BBC2 series has attracted viewing figures of nearly four million outpacing modern television masterpieces such as Big Brother.
And such has been its popularity that the first of three Victorian Farm Christmas episodes is being screened tomorrow and there will be a new Escape In Time series presented by Ben Fogle based at the cottage being screened in the New Year.
Now there is a difference between showing an interest in the past and actually reverting to past skills. How many women do you know under the age of 25 capable of operating a sewing machine?
But the tide may be changing. Sales of sewing machines, buttons, thread etc are up significantly this year, and retailers such as Hobbycraft are having an exceptional trading period as people revert to making things and mending things.
The craft chain has reported a 67 per cent rise in full year profit and plans to quadruple its size to 180 outlets in the medium term.
There is strong evidence that more and more people are forsaking chain store fashions for home-made products that have the advantage of being cheaper and can also be distinctive if you choose to make your own designs.
Despite suffering a fall in overall sales, John Lewis has reported a 57 per cent increase in sales of sewing machines. It has been running Learn to Sew classes as well as marketing a mini sewing machine.
Of course the downside to all this thrift in recession is that we actually need to be spending to boost the economy and output. However we need spending in the right direction.
I for one will be in the workhouse over Christmas. Now, where did I put my quill?
* Trevor Law is a director with Montpelier Group (Europe) Ltd, the privately-owned independent financial advisers located near Solihull. E-mail: email@example.com