Sandra Dick: All I want for Christmas is . . the expensive stuff

With the UK set to spend £9.3bn this month, Sandra Dick examines the 'have-it-all' generation

OK, kids, cut to the chase. We know you'd like not only the entire contents of the Argos catalogue toy pages, but also the Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo pages, the laptop, Apple iPad, MP3 player and mobile phone sections, sports pages for the lads, beauty and jewellery for the girls and on and on.

For no longer will an over-ripe satsuma, selection box, handmade dolls' house or a second-hand bike suffice on Christmas morning.

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As today's parents are only too aware, the modern "have it all" generation of kids want nothing but the best - and plenty of it Santa, if you don't mind.

The latest iPad? Would junior prefer the 16GB model at upwards of 400 or perhaps the 64GB, 3G version, a snip for the elves at an eye-watering 700? Or a PS3 console? 300 and that's before you buy the games to play on it.

Ludicrous as it sounds, in spite of the recession there are indeed children out there who will wake up on Christmas morning to find the latest laptop, iPad, gaming system or expensive smartphone winking at them from beneath the tree.

That is a giant leap from what older generations could expect to find beneath the tree: a set of Klackers and a Stylophone was, for Seventies children, the pinnacle of festive excitement, while today's grandparents probably lost the plot at the sight of a hula hoop or a Dan Dare ray gun.

It doesn't take a genius to figure it out, yet new joint research from parenting website Netmums and over-50s organisation Saga proves there's a yawning gulf between what past generations found beneath the tree and today's youngsters receive.

Indeed, those quizzed who were born in the Thirties said by the time they became parents, their total Christmas expenditure would have been less than 50 in today's money for the entire family. The survey says parents today easily spend four times as much.

Sixty-three per cent of today's young parents admit they go without themselves in order to lavish gifts on their children at Christmas.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, says: "Previous generations of parents didn't seem to go to such great lengths to fill their children's stockings. Perhaps, in this 'age of austerity', we should be learning from their attitudes and remembering that Christmas is about more than gifts."

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Over recent years, simple and cheaper toys of the past have been elbowed aside for pricy gadgets.

A recent Duracell Toy Report claims 39 per cent of five to 16-year-olds want an Apple for Christmas, as long as it's stamped on the back of an iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone. No wonder as a nation we're expected to splash out 9.3 billion this December.

Gill Cook, of support helpline ParentLine Scotland, says there's an overwhelming pressure on parents to spend, spend, spend.

She says: "There's this fantasy of what Christmas is. We're bombarded with it on television and in adverts which are so over-indulgent and perfect that we all feel we're not doing it right unless we're spending a fortune. Then there's pester power from our children. Parents end up frightened to say 'no'."

"The more you give children, the more they learn to expect. Yet younger children don't need a fortune spent on them; often they get more pleasure from little stocking fillers than expensive gifts."

Edinburgh mum-of-two Fiona Brownlee, founding director of, says her spending habits have altered as her daughters, aged eight and five, have grown.

"I was probably more guilty of spending excessively when the children were little. I cleared out the Little White Company of dressing gowns, hot water bottles and cute slippers only to find that they were happier playing with the packaging.

"Now the older one definitely is under peer pressure to get things her friends have," she says.

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"I've ignored the DS for years but am going to succumb this year as she says she gets left out when they have sleepovers and everyone is allowed to play with them."

Fiona insists on taking a sensible approach, though, with one big present and a few smaller ones.

"We're buying the five-year-old a bike. I guess that I'll be spending approximately 150 on both children and depriving ourselves.

"She'd prefer a Moxie doll, which would be cheaper, but she needs a bike along with a new school jacket, Rainbows trousers and other essentials."

ParentLine Scotland's Gill Cook believes we're spending more because we can. She says: "We live in a cashless society so half the time people don't feel like they're spending.

"But while it's easy to assume that every child is getting lots of presents at Christmas, there will be a lot out there who don't get anything at all."

That's a wrap

Feeling the pressure from those pesky kids? ParentLine Scotland's Gill Cook has this advice for overwhelmed parents:

• Set a clear budget of what you think is a reasonable amount of money to spend on each child and stick to it

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• If they are old enough, talk to them about what you can afford. If they want something that's over the budget, suggest some way they might make a contribution to the cost

• Don't get into debt

• Be a canny shopper. But remember that because you've saved money on one thing, you don't necessarily have to go and buy something else

• Don't feel guilty if your children don't have dozens of parcels. What's important is that we spend time with each other

ParentLine Scotland offers advice on a range of issues to parents, call 0808 800 2222