/ Shopping, Technology

Ditch the surprise, tell them what you want for Christmas

I’ve been researching Christmas spending habits and I’ve noticed a discrepancy between what we want and what we get. ‘Bah humbug!’ I hear you cry, but shouldn’t we be more open about the gifts we’d like?

Dropping hints is one thing and making wish lists is another, yet we still so often give and receive what’s not wanted. This not only leaves us with an awkward gift that needs to be taken out of the drawer each time a relative visits, but it’s also a waste of money.

And this happens because hints and wish lists aren’t enough. What we need is a discussion, or if that’s too formal, let’s at least have a chat.

Tell them what you want

You can add anything to your Christmas list: a £500 tablet, a £2,000 TV or a £700 iPhone 4S, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get any of them.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), 14% of adults want an iPad for Christmas – but can gift givers afford to satisfy this desire? Our pre-Christmas chat should help manage such expectations.

It might all seem quite business-like (and about as romantic as a pre-nuptial agreement) but working in the Which? Tech team, I know how personal tech products are to people.

If somebody I know hints that they want a camera for Christmas, and I’m in a position to buy them one, the decision is still far from being made. There are an awful lot of considerations:

‘A camera, you say? Do you want it for snapshots, or do you need manual controls? Do you need a superzoom, or would you prefer something with interchangeable lenses?’

I’m often asked by colleagues to recommend tech gadgets that they can give as presents to their tech-loving friends. But where do I begin? If they could furnish me with just a little bit more info then I might be able to recommend something with all the prerequisites.

Don’t be disappointed

Without sufficient and specific details about the gifts people want, the results might be quite broad. A safe option could be to simply buy a camera enthusiast a memory card, but I can’t help thinking they’d be disappointed.

Then again, CEA’s research suggests that over a quarter of people giving tech products this year will be giving their ‘lucky’ recipients a memory card. The fact that this gift will come as a surprise doesn’t make it any better. Why not have the discussion, ruin the surprise, and have a great Christmas by getting what you want.

As an appendage, I must point out that I think young children are an exception. Hopefully they’ll love Christmas and anything you, or Father Christmas, gives them.

As for the rest of us, if we’re not more open about what we want, Christmas will only end up being one big disappointment.


For the first time last year all the adults in my family decided to save money by doing a family Secret Santa between us with a spending limit. This year we used an online tool that comes with a wishlist so you can insert a link to the exact present you want! Maybe that that will solve the problem….?

Possibly THE most stressful part of Christmas, aside from all the travelling. We’re half and half in our family, with just a few ‘oh, I’ll like anything you get’. If in doubt I usually head for vouchers from a store I know they like – then they can get what they really want. Or put it towards something more pricey. Perhaps not quite the spirit, but it’s the thought, eh? 😉

Now I just need to figure out what to get my husband!

If you think Ben’s idea is unromantic, how about this… a quarter of Britons will give Christmas presents in January to save money by buying in the sales. Makes sense but kind of takes the fun out of Christmas day!

It must take a lot of planning to buy Christmas presents 11 months early. 🙂

Chris Moore says:
9 December 2011

I think it is a much better idea to tell people what you want for Christmas, because not only are you getting what you want (or knowing whether it is possible or not) to avoid any disappointment on the day, but you are also much more excited about the present as it is something that you really want!

If I have an idea for a Christmas present and it’s within people’s price range of course I give them some ideas, however I am not very materialistic so find it hard to come up with any present ideas. Quite frankly all I want for Christmas this year is a job as I have been out of work for nearly a year!