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Will 'gift creep' catch you out this year?

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

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So, you've traipsed round the shops, scoured the internet and, after stocking up on Christmas gifts for family and friends, you're now putting your feet up for a well-earned rest.

But just as you bite into that mince pie and take the first sip of that mulled wine, doubts start popping into your mind.

Will your father-in-law really fit into that reindeer jumper you bought him or should you have gone for extra large? Will your nephew really like the wooden train set, or should you have admitted consumerist defeat and gone for the big, brash plastic one? Cue the mince pie and mulled wine being abandoned, and you dashing back to the shops. After all, there's still a whole hour before they close to grab whatever's left on the shelves, whatever it might be.

If this panic-laden scenario sounds familiar, it could mean you're a victim of "gift creep" – a new phrase coined to sum up those little extra presents we snap up at the last minute in the hope they'll make the original gifts we chose look better.

A survey of 3,000 people, by Currys and PC World, found we spend an average of £16.79 each on such presents, despite the same research also showing most people start planning their presents up to eight weeks in advance of the big day. But 35 per cent say they feel the urge to buy more because they are disappointed with how their gifts look wrapped up, and 23 per cent say they worry the other person will have spent more.

Dr Karen Pine, a psychologist, says: "Choosing the right gifts at Christmas is one of the most stressful events of the year as people feel under pressure to get it absolutely right.

"This pressure leads to a behavioural phenomenon that we call 'gift creep'. This is when people buy additional gifts because they worry that what they've chosen isn't enough, or isn't quite up to scratch."

Although this concern about getting things right is principally aimed at the gifts we are giving, it does seep over to the ones we're receiving too. Over a third of those surveyed said they wish loved ones would stick to a specific list of presents, rather than trying to use their own initiative when buying a Christmas gift, and 30 per cent said they go for the direct approach and tell their nearest and dearest exactly want they want and where to buy it.

Needless to say, the research also pointed to some differences between men and women in their gift-buying behaviour. Women said they start picking up on hints dropped up to 13 weeks before Christmas, while men listen for subtle mentions up to nine weeks before. A wily 10 per cent of both sexes said they monitored posts on social media for extra hints. But while it would be tempting to think all this planning and hint-hunting was enough to feel in control of what's under the tree, the rise of "gift creep" clearly proves otherwise.

Here are some signs to watch out for:

You say you've "finished" your Christmas shopping but still buy little extras every time you go out. You worry that a loved one won't like what you've bought them, so you add another gift, like a box of luxury chocolates, on top to soften the impact of any disappointment.

Before someone visits, you have a last-minute hunt round the house to see if there's anything else you could give them.

After wrapping your gifts, you become anxious the size and number looks rather small.

You tot up how much you've spent on people and try to even up the amounts.

You buy a gift for someone, forgetting you've already bought them something, and end up giving them both presents.

And while looking to safeguard your finances against that extra spending, remember to keep a close eye on your debit and credit cards over the festive season?

As more people are out celebrating or shopping for Christmas presents, it's not a surprise that bank cards are more likely to go missing.

Indeed, building society Nationwide says one in five new credit cards it sent out over last year's festive season was to replace lost or stolen cards.

Paul Carvell, head of credit cards at Nationwide, said: "There are a few easy precautions people can take to ensure a lost or stolen card can't be used if they fall into the wrong hands."

He said people should not let their card out of their sight when making a transaction and should never give their number to anyone, not even friends or family. He also advised keeping the card issuer's number in a mobile phone, so lost or stolen cards can be reported immediately.

Online, only shop on secure websites and beware of "phishing" emails from fraudsters trying to con you out of details or money.

For more, visit www.nationwide.co.uk/internetbanking/fraudawareness

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