14/08/2014 16:37 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Christmas Shopping: How To Avoid Buying Novelty Tat

Are you obsessed with all things Christmas? There's nothing wrong a bit of festive tat, says Anna Hart, but there's no need to waste money on unwanted presents.

Is there such thing as a tasteful Christmas? Probably not, and I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. One of my favourite fashion quotes EVER came from the red-lipsticked, disdainfully-puckered mouth of Diana Vreeland: "A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste - it's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I'm against."

She's right, of course; and Christmas in particular is a time to not let good taste get in the way of a good time. BUT this is what makes Christmas such a minefield for the consumer. And it explains why this year, Britain is predicted to spend £2.1 billion on unwanted Christmas gifts.


It's all too easy to get tipsy on Stollen and find yourself glimpsing the rose-tinted supermarket shelves through Christmas Specs. In this heightened state, total tat is rendered kitsch, fun, quirky or hilarious. And the bad news is the spell doesn't even last until Christmas Eve. Thankfully we've come up with a failsafe plan to avoiding Xmas Specs this year. Your recycling bin will thank us.

1. Ignore anything with the word "novelty" in front of it. Aka "novelty earrings", "novelty condoms", "novelty ties" or "novelty keyrings". If something has to market itself as a "novelty", that's because it has literally nothing else going for it. And it won't even have novelty value, the very second time you look at it. Steer clear.

2. Beware also the prefix "luxury". We're thinking of "luxury mochaccino mugs" and "luxury bath pearls". Nine times out of ten, a "luxury" gift is just a "novelty" gift with added pretension.

3. When buying gifts, choose the smallest thing you can afford. Let me explain: if you have £15 to spend at the beauty counter on a gift for a friend or girlfriend, go for a single designer, covetable item over bulk cheapo items. Perhaps a Mac lipstick in classic Russian Red or peachy bliss Ravishing (both £15). Not a cellophane-covered basket of cheap fruit-shaped soaps, bath salts and a loofah. The best presents are the things you adore, but wouldn't quite have been decadent enough to buy for yourself.

4. Think vintage. If you go to the right vintage store, it will already have been vetted for "total tat status"; time will have separated the wheat from the chaff. And you'll often be able to pick up a beautiful beaded clutch bag or pair of quality leather gloves for half the price on the high street.

5. When buying Christmas essentials, look for versatility. Opt for red polkadot wrapping paper over Santa-embossed stuff, because red polkadots can be used on birthdays, anniversaries and Valentines Day. (Perhaps not for funerals.) If you must buy cardboard cups and plates, go for stuff that's party-themed, rather than strictly Christmas-themed. This way you'll actually use it up before you grow sick of the sight of it, and won't have a cupboard jammed full of useless naked-Santa-themed napkin rings and straws. That is still going strong in 2025.

Need gift inspiration? You can't go wrong with a good fragrance. Shop our pick of the best below: