Here are some practical tips for buying affordable gifts

Candle holders are always welcome gifts at Christmas, especially designs that can be used at other times of the year. Try a touch of timeless Swedish design with the Lene Bjerre candle holders (€29) and tree pot (€28) from Boulevard Interiors.

Don’t panic — you have this weekend and next to secure presents, tokens of appreciation, stocking stuffers and gifts to take to friends’ houses.

Naturally, I’m encouraging you to buy gifts for the house as a labour-saving approach to shopping. One gift will suffice for him and her rather than separate gifts with double the agonising amidst the teeming throngs of shoppers.

It’s hard picking gifts you know will be welcomed and used, so on this last- minute trawl, we’re focusing on usefulness, not just for Christmas but for the rest of the year too.

Consider the recipients’ interests for starters. Maybe they love to cook and are indulging in the fashionable revival of home baking. Get a gift box or basket and fill it with a selection of spatulas, wooden spoons, whisks, measuring cups and reusable silicone cupcake cases. They come in all colours nowadays, so find the right one to match the recipient’s kitchen. M&S combinations start at €10 in festive red.

For anyone who prefers the natural look, Dunnes Stores is currently stocking a range of acacia wood kitchen and table products. Salad bowls start at €6, or try a stand to keep a recipe book open and stop pages being stuck together by sticky fingers (€10).

One of the big trends for 2014 is coloured glass. Waterford Crystal’s response is its Fleurology range which includes vases blown and cut to evoke flower shapes, finished in a variety of tints. They’re a move towards retro crystal styles with detailed cuts we associate with earlier editions of Waterford glass.

For an unusual gift combination try one of these with a companion crystal flower ornament, or with the more natural approach of a bouquet of eucalyptus, or even a few evergreen sprigs from the garden tied with red ribbon to make a lovely gift when popping to friends over the holidays (Fleurology from €40 at Blarney Woollen Mills).

Inevitably you’ll have a friend who is determined to get a health kick going in January so consider a kitchen gadget to help, but one that will be just as useful for the rest of the year when the gym bunny descends into slothfulness.

A blender is perfectly multi-functional and much handier than a juice machine, letting you whizz up healthy smoothies but also breadcrumbs for turkey stuffing.

As it’s the season when a hangover can linger, don’t forget a coffee machine, or the more affordable stove-top espresso pot. Starting at €25 they’re available from department stores and cookware shops, and when not in use they look stylishly continental sitting on the hob or a kitchen shelf.

An old favourite that may already be languishing in the back of a cupboard is the toasted sandwich maker, or to be in-vogue — the panini maker. It’s perfect for Christmas time when you can’t inflict yet another helping of cold turkey and ham on family and guests, and you don’t want to spend every day of the holidays clung to the stove. Assemble a few toasties and dish up with a bowl of soup or serve with pickles and relishes for supper after a late night movie or a board game session.

We’re back on January 4 with new trends for 2014.


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