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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2003, 11:39 GMT
All my presents... for a tenner
By Megan Lane
BBC News Online Magazine

Britons will spend an average of 300 each on presents this Christmas, with some generous souls coughing up more than that. But does the festive season have to burn a hole in the pocket?

Christmas cheer has a habit of turning into despair when the credit card bill drops through the letter box in January.

So, in an effort to stave off my New Year fears, I set out to see if I could bag all my Christmas presents for just 10. Here's what I came back with in my sack...

Mirrored clock/pen-holder
My mum volunteers at a bird sanctuary. She likes writing letters. And who doesn't want to know what the time is?

With this handsome clock/pen-holder decorated with glass love birds - the base of which is mirrored so that she can check her hair before she goes out of a morning - it seems that the perfect gift can be had for just 2.50, battery included.

Sequined Santa hat
My dad is a jolly type, with a fluffy white beard and a roly-poly tummy, not to mention a love of hats (all the better to keep his bald patch warm and toasty). He will therefore love this sequined Santa hat. Not only is it seasonal, it is practical too - and a bargain at just 1.

The bad news is that he is just the type of man who will wear it in public in order to cause maximum embarrassment to his offspring. D'oh!

Water slingshot
Nephew Ashwin is a boisterous little tyke who loves trains, tractors and things that go BANG! While the same cannot be said of his long-suffering parents, Christmas is a time for children to be indulged. So it is his tastes that will hold sway in my choice of gift.

This sling-shot which fires water balloons and other liquid-filled missiles is just the job - and at a mere 1, it won't break the budget. The bedroom window maybe, but not the budget.

Toy violin
At not quite 12-months-old, my Australian niece is already showing early promise as a musician - a genius child, without a doubt. So she will be delighted with this electronic violin which at the push of a button emits many and various melodious sound effects.

Only trouble is, the cost of the batteries exceeds the value of the gift (a thrifty 1.99 - reduced to 1.50 by the market stallholder "because it's the morning"). And with all those loose pegs and stickers, she'll have to be supervised while playing with it... a big sorry to her parents.

Colouring-in set
For the artist in my life, a colouring kit - 10 pencils, 10 felt tip pens AND 10 crayons, suitable for ages three and up. At 31, he certainly qualifies.

With these babies to daub about with gay abandon, he'll surely have next year's Turner Prize in the bag, plus the prospect of generous commissions from the likes of Charles Saatchi. All in all, a result which certainly justifies the 1 outlay involved.

Chocolate Santa
In training for the Iron Man triathlon, my brother can pack away the calories like there's no tomorrow. This chocolate Santa, which comes complete with chocolate baubles - handy as decorations - is the ideal gift for the man who eats everything.

At Shepherd's Bush market, this sack of delights retails for 1.50. At a pound shop down the road, a similar chocky Santa can be had for a mere one quid.

Nearby, I pick up six sheets of wrapping paper for a paltry 50p. And that's my lot. Six highly distinguished presents and enough gift wrap for them all and I still have a pound left to treat myself. Now, how much was that faux leopard-skin cosmetics case?

All presents were bought at Shepherd's Bush Market, London, and nearby discount shops. Photos by Phil Coomes.

What's the cheapest gift you've ever given - or received? Let us know using the form below.

One year, my mum bought her aunt some miniature jars of jam in a gift set. The following year, she received the same gift-set back - with the receipt still in it. And it was past its best-before date!
Craig, UK

I am still using the perpetual calendar I bought my grandmother for sixpence at Woolworth's in 1937. It is blue Bakelite on a wood frame and I still change it every day. I regard it as one of my more precious family heirlooms
Paul Jones, Canada

My ex "great aunt-in-law" gave me a yellow duster. Came round to my house, ate a no-expense-spared dinner, took the table centre and a doggy bag home. And she's loaded. And she criticised my cooking.
Jules, UK

I gave a Wilkinson blade (0.75) to my Dad for a Christmas shave and gave my mum a packet of soup (0.39)
Ramy, London

My husband occasionally helped an elderly lady who lived in the same road. Once, she said thank you with an old coat that had belonged to her (now deceased) husband together with a packet of corn plasters.
Nicola, UK

My mum always saves the cheap & nasty free gifts from magazines etc. and uses them as Xmas / Birthday presents for people including family!
Anon, UK

I used to make vouchers that my Mum and Dad could redeem for me to wash their cars. They still have the vouchers, even though they've long since expired.
Lisa, UK

I was puzzled to receive a leg warmer from my great aunt five years ago. Not only were they woefully out of fashion, but there was just the one. When my sister opened her present from the same aunt, sure enough, she had the other leg warmer. They were reunited in the bin.
Lynwen, Derby, UK

I've just finished building a toy castle for my 5-year-old grandson. It has five towers, a keep, stables, guardroom, a working drawbridge, and a moat. It was made from scrap wood and odds and ends I found at home. Total cost: 40p for a hinge for the draw bridge.
Andrew Coley, UK

Each year, my girlfriend and I have a 10 limit on Xmas presents to each other. This year she has two goldfish (2.98), some very small knickers (2.40), a Toblerone (1), a balloon modelling kit (1.99) and a 63p bet on Sven Goran Eriksson taking over at Chelsea (3/1), all coming her way.
Tim, UK

My dad was useless at choosing gifts, and was always on the lookout for a 'hint' in the run-up to Christmas for a great gift to get. So, when my mum happened to mention that she could really do with a new dustpan and brush ... it wasn't her only present, but it was a cold, frosty Christmas that year.
Jolyon, UK

My friend and I made chocolate truffles to save money this Christmas. We had a little cottage industry going in the kitchen, and made more than 100 chocolates. They're scrummy and look better than shop ones.
Charlotte , UK

My mum loves the book The Secret Garden, so when the 1940s film was on TV I taped it, then made a box with print-outs from the computer. She still has it and I was the favourite son that year.
Luke, UK

Each Christmas my family sends backwards and forwards a mock-croc key fob, which is now about 50 years old, so must have cost about 5p in new money. I remember my mum's face a few years back when she thought she'd received a Pavarotti tape - inside she found the nasty old key ring. Gets a laugh every year.
Joanne, UK

When my brother was a teenager, he spent all his money on drink, leaving him little cash for presents. You can imagine my sister's delight when she received a gift-wrapped brick bought from a building site the night before. Attached was the note "YOU'RE A REAL BRICK".
Anna, Ireland

My niece and nephew, when they were 5 and 6, were let loose in a 1 shop with 50p each to get me a present. They combined their money and came out with a purple and orange sculpture of a seahorse. It was hideous, but because they'd chosen it, I loved it. Six years on, it sits at the bottom of my garden.
Gareth Smith, London, England

A friend gave me this horrible toothbrush holder his ex-boyfriend had given him for his birthday only a month before. After having to put up with him moaning for days about how rubbish it was, I couldn't believe he tried to palm in off on me. My revenge was to give it back to him last year, and I'm expecting a return visit from the offending item this year.
Jason, London, England

I once received loads of lovely Xmas presents, but the cheapest proved to be the best. My set of juggling balls cost 1.50 (reduced from 3) and they kept me amused all over the festive period!
Mike, UK

The cheapest gift I gave cost 50p at a charity shop. It was a single screw top jar, with 'coffee' on the front. It was greatly appreciated as the previous Christmas, one of a set of three jars fell off the shelf and shattered. We tried for months to find a replacement. Gave up and then saw one in the window of the charity shop.
Colin Bartlett, Oxford, UK

One of my Christmas presents from my beloved boyfriend was a paper butterfly out of a Kinder Surprise Egg - which I'd bought for him!
Lynda, England

My brother and I bought my Mum a woolly jumper for $1 from Chinatown in New York - just meant for doing the gardening - and got her proper presents too. She was disgusted! She got the last laugh when she won the worst Christmas present competition in the local pub.
Sarah, UK

My brother gave me a copy of Aesop's Fables which cost him a pound. I'd originally read it as a child and loved it. Despite spending so little, it was one of the nicest and well thought out presents I've ever received.
Ed, UK

A couple of years ago my Nan gave me a used coffee mug from her kitchen cupboard, and my mum (her daughter-in-law) some E45 shampoo and a packet of plain digestive biscuits.
Phill, UK

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