I am excellent at buying presents.
These are not my words but the words of many a recipient to my thoughtful gifts. For years they have been telling me to publish my tips so as to help Irish men who fail at shopping. So from now until the 25th December, my blog will contain this extra section.
Buying Christmas presents doesn’t have to be a stressful experience but you need to plan in advance and become au fait with shopping online. Your own immediate family might appreciate your witty presents from the local Euro shop but your wife/girlfriend won’t so don’t even bother trying.
Christmas is a time above all else when we can prove to our women why they choose to put up with us all year round. Gone are the days when you can saunter into town on a Christmas Eve, as if you’re auditioning for a role in Bad Santa and hope for the best. It’s a charming but dying practice especially when all the best deals are to be had now. If you plan ahead, the only thing you’ll need to do this festive season is soak up the atmosphere on the 24th and enjoy your few drinks in the pub instead of being laden down with bags of pure tat. Moreover, we get a lot of warnings and hidden messages on what women really want for Christmas.
If you’re going out a long time it’s important that you set yourselves a budget. After four rather extravagant Christmases together, my girlfriend and I are toning it down this year as we are frantically saving to get a mortgage. Remember, you don’t need to break the bank in order for your other half to appreciate your efforts. If you spend hundreds on her but don’t know her taste, it’ll just be awkward. Like a child at Christmas she’ll be more impressed by the fancy bag and packaging than the oversized sunglasses from Brown Thomas she’ll never want to wear. Also, make use of the tips that your Irish women provide you with in the run up to their favourite time of year.
1. Michael Kors
Ever had to walk through Brown Thomas’s because apparently it’s a shortcut to Wicklow Street? It isn’t but just go along with it as your woman is giving you a possible tip. Notice how she’ll linger around the Michael Kors section for example and then observe how she’ll bring up his name on several occasions right up until she opens her presents. But what is she telling you, if she does this? Your woman wants a Michael Kors bag. Yes, the chap is awfully expensive but with one pay cheque left until the big day it’s not nigh on impossible.
Some men like to fancy their chances at buying seductive underwear at every given opportunity. But here’s the thing, bar Valentine’s night, most Irish women don’t want to wear sultry underwear and they’ll have no problem telling you so either. Of course, buying lingerie is not just reserved for Love Day on the 14th February, but in my experience, if you opt to go down this road, women like nice, pretty and functional underwear from shops like Marks & Spencer and not Ann Summers. They also like it when you don’t just guess their size. Think about it, if you wear trunks all the time in a size medium, you wouldn’t appreciate it if she decided to buy you a pair of large Y-fronts for the craic so don’t buy her an uncomfortable thong if she never wears them. Remember, if you buy the wrong underwear, she’ll most likely be unable to return the garment for hygienic reasons.
Perhaps you’ve observed her looking at a particular dress. Granted, this one can only be mastered if you live together because if you don’t, you might not be aware that she nipped out for lunch one day and decided to buy said dress in the end. Also, this idea is not for the fainthearted and you’ll need to go about it the right way. Find out her size and look at her style. For instance, what kind of Pretty Woman look do you think she’ll like best? I think you’ll find the answer is not that difficult. Additionally, if you feel weird about browsing around a female store, don’t; the staff know why you’re there and they’ll be happy to help, so ask. Be sure to get a gift receipt though, just in case there’s any problems.
Please see no. 3 for further details and swap the word dress for shoes but follow every other aspect of the process in terms of size, style and so on.
Despite what you might think, this one is very easy to get wrong. What does she like to wear? Does she have a simple, classic taste or is she into a lot of colour? Perhaps she likes to show off and wear a lot of bling? Maybe she needs a new watch. Does she like silver or gold earrings? Does she even have her ears pierced? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself. But the one thing you should never do is buy cheap and tacky jewellery. That’s an insult, especially when there are high-end inexpensive alternatives such as Newbridge, which mostly caters to all ages and tastes. Newbridge also has excellent sales assistants who can spot a deer in a headlight a mile away. If you really know her taste, you could be brave and opt for something from the likes of Rhinstones. Based at 18 Andrew Street, it is home to amazing antique and modern costume jewellery and you can often get a bargain. Avoca on nearby Suffolk Street, also has fantastic costume jewellery as well as pieces from well-known Irish designers. Remember, while you can return most jewellery in most shops, they won’t take back earrings so tread carefully here.
What’s her favourite brand of makeup? Perhaps you could buy her a set in Boots or in the makeup hall of any well-known department store. Okay, it’s not imaginative but it’s functional and she’ll appreciate the gesture. But do not get her a brand you think she’ll like, get her a brand she does like and more importantly, one that she wears. Raid her dressing table if you have to. Under no circumstances should you buy her something your mother wears because you’ll be in the doghouse for weeks if you commit such a cardinal sin. I’ve been told if it smells like Eau de Aul Wan, don’t buy it! You will need female advice on this one so ask the sales assistants for help, it’s what they’re there for.
7. Personalised gifts
This one is for the sentimental amongst you. It’s also a rather inexpensive way of buying your loved one a very thoughtful gift. Last Christmas, I bought my girlfriend a piece of art from the Green Gallery at Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. It was a canvas print of O’Neill’s Pub on Suffolk Street and it cost €15. O’Neill’s was the place where we went on all our early dates and it was also at a time when our prospective buses stopped across the road on the same street. It’s one of her favourite presents and it cost less than €30.
Another idea in this category is to get your better-half a personalised diary with gold embossing on the cover. The Thesis Centre on Camden Street offers a great choice and advice in this department. Their range starts at €12 so it’s very affordable, even if times are tight.
Maybe you’re just bad at buying presents and that’s okay. Don’t waste your time and money buying things she won’t care for. However, you should take an interest in what she does like. Is her favourite shop River Island? If the answer is yes, buy her a voucher for River Island but if the answer is no, don’t buy her a voucher for River Island.
Does she get her hair/nails done on a regular basis from a particular salon. If the answer is yes, buy her a voucher for that particular salon.
If you fall into this category, you’re buying her a voucher so you have to get it right. There are NO second chances in this category. So remember, there’s no point buying her a voucher for Topshop if she never shops there and equally, there’s no point buying her a voucher for a fancy salon unless she goes there all the time.
If you still have no faith in yourself when it comes to picking a specific voucher, you can buy a Perfect Card from most shopping centres. Contrary to what they would have you believe, the Perfect Card works in any shop that supports MasterCard. Therefore, if you buy one in Dundrum Town Centre, you can actually spend that in Blanchardstown…or Tipperary. As long as they accept MasterCard, they’ll be able to accept Perfect Card – even if they don’t think they will!
9. Couples Retreat Vouchers
This is an excellent idea and can also kill two birds with one stone as you could use it for your upcoming Valentine’s celebration. If on the off chance, your other-half decides to bring her best friend/sister instead of you on the couples retreat, you probably should re-evaluate your relationship – bad times but you’ll save your money next Christmas – good times.
Finally, I hope my experience will help you lads in your future shopping endeavours. I’d also like to point out that both Arnotts and Brown Thomas have an excellent Christmas guide “For Her” on their websites and to make things easier you can shop online. Also, keep an eye out for their special sale days in December where you could save up to 60% on certain items. Best of luck and merry Christmas.