Natarsha McHattan will not be found among the swarms of people descending anxiously on shops in the few weeks before Christmas.

The mother-of-four has her Christmas presents purchased, wrapped and the Christmas lunch organised.

"I started being really organised after the birth of my first child. I was studying full time at the time and realised how expensive it can be if you are not organised," she said.

Everyone wants to buy a unique and special gift, but financial and time pressures can make Christmas a bit grim for some, she said.


Ms McHattan shops over the course of the year and buys gifts when they are on special to ensure a good Christmas.

This means she gets the best bang for her buck and something unique for her kids, she said.

"We always shop a year ahead, with uncertainty of work and one income we have to. A good thing with that is the kids don't get the same things as everyone else," she said.

Ms McHattan gives her kids an electrical item each, one "big thing" to share between them (last year was a trampoline), two pieces of clothing and an amount of money to spend at the Boxing Day sales, she said.

"There is a $100 limit on all kids, and I bought the last Christmas present around March," she said.

"The kids loved it last year, I write them out an IOU on a piece of paper on Christmas day for how much they could spend at the sales the next day," she said.

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Organisation and knowing how much you can spend are the keys to a merry Christmas, Rotorua financial adviser Pearl Pavett said.

Mrs Pavett sees the aftermath of budget-blowing Christmas spending at the Rotorua Budget Advisory Service, a free service which often acts as the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, she said.

"If you are thinking about budgeting for Christmas now, it is already too late," she said.
"People come to us after Christmas when they are in a mess, when they have no money and the power bill rolls in."

Mrs Pavett said people should avoid spending money they do not have, and to stay away from buying items on credit.

"New Zealand is a country with a lot of people living off credit. That's scary," she said.
"There are a lot of scams happening in Rotorua at the moment and people are too quick to make a direct debit out of their account," she said.

Mrs Pavitt advises her clients to start a weekly savings account from the money spent on "treats", and during the year this will build up, she said.

Retailers have been opening until 7pm on Thursdays to allow for evening shoppers, but many stores aren't expecting the rush to start until mid-December.

Bike Barn Rotorua manager Michael Mansell said kids' mountain bikes, which start at about $99, are already heading out the door and under Christmas trees.

"We are selling a lot of kid's mountain bikes which are going to be Christmas presents, but we also end up selling a lot of vouchers which can be used on accessories," he said.

Atlantis Books co-owner Fraser Newman said he has been Christmas wrapping books already.

"We have definitely begun selling for Christmas, people are asking for gift-wrapping.

"People are starting to buy locally again with books because people are getting frustrated with delivery times. The last couple of years books have been delayed at the border."

McLeods Booksellers assistant manager Michael Byrne said there had been a generational shift towards book buying again.

"People seem to be returning to books. They are the ultimate gift.

"For the last decade we have been fighting war and losing the battle, but there is a generational shift towards buying books."

A sure-to-please instore Christmas present was a coffee table book on the work of artist Grahame Sydney, he said.

"It is a lovely coffee table book and comes in a slip case. It is a work of art in itself," he said.

Another stand-out book Mr Byrne noted was Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History by historians Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris.

Mr Byrne said non-fiction crime novels from Lee Child, Ian McEwan and Michael Connolly were always big sellers.

Kimberley Edwards, who runs Monkey Kids in the Living Room Collective, said most people were still only thinking about their Christmas purchasing.

"We have a lot of people coming in to have a look. Some are buying, but these are mostly people who are having early Christmasses," she said.

The shop has things to inspire, including a mermaid flipper, Mrs Edwards said.
"The mermaid flipper is very popular. It's the real McCoy, it's a real flipper that you can take swimming," she said.

The Mermaid flipper is available for children and adults from $139. The Warehouse toy buyer Lonnica Van Engelen said they were excited about the extensive range of toys on offer for kids this Christmas.

Ms Van Engelen's top picks for kids and families this Christmas included dolls and merchandise from Walt Disney's blockbuster animation movie Frozen and the new My Monopoly, which is a fully customisable version for kids and adults of the much-loved board-game.

"Our research revealed that 88 per cent of Kiwis believe that toys encourage creativity in kids and we're thrilled to offer children toys that will create fun, laughter and memories for years to come," Ms Van Engelen said.

The Warehouse will be getting feedback from its Top 10 Toys list from the best people for the job, their four young toy testers, including 7-year-old Samuel Collins from Rotorua. Each month Samuel receives up to $200 of brand new toys to play, assess and rate. This feedback is then passed on to The Warehouse's toy buying team.

¦ Girls
Loom bands, $2 packets from AJ's Emporium
Play-doh set
David Walliams Awful Aunty
¦ Boys
Bike accessories from Bike Barn Rotorua
Play-doh Set
Jeff Kinney Diary of a Wimpy Kid
¦ Teenage Girl
Photo album or frames
John Green The Fault In Our Stars
Body Shop Glazed Apple body butter, $36.95
¦ Teenage Boy
Neutrogena skin clearing acne wash, $25
Music earbuds
iTunes card
¦ Mum
The Styx Store in the Living Room Collective market baskets from $32, tin planters from $6
New Zealand bees wax candles from $8
Peta Matthias Hot Pink Spice Saga, available at McLeods Booksellers
¦ Dad
iTunes card
Golf balls, golf tees, tennis balls, ski goggles
Al Brown'sDepot: Biography of a Restaurant, available at McLeods Booksellers


Be innovative with your gift ideas. Turn your skills into a unique and thoughtful gift.

¦ Make an IOU voucher offering your time and skills. Think babysitting, gardening, cooking or cleaning.

¦ Give baking as a gift. Fudge, cookies and meringues are all cheap and easy to bake. Decorate your packaging and use a ribbon tie.

¦ Do a secret Santa in your family to save money. Set a minimum and maximum price range.

¦ Get crafty. Decorate a plain, wooden box with paint and decoupage to make a personalised gift.