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Fri, Dec 16, 2011
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Get into the spirit of giving
by Sarah Chang

CHRISTMAS spending may be down in some European countries because of the economic downturn, but the world's economic troubles haven't bothered Singaporeans much. At least, not this Christmas season.

Those my paper spoke to are not skimping when it comes to buying gifts for their loved ones. But, in an emerging trend, many are looking for practical gifts, so that the money (and effort) spent does not go to waste.

Ms Sherolynn Choo, who owns an accessories business, said she is "not really" affected by news of an impending downturn.

In fact, the 30-year-old, who is married to music teacher Joshua Ong, 31, is in the mood to be "extravagant and indulgent" when it comes to gifts for her husband.

And no wonder. The couple are expecting their first child - a boy - next month, just before Chinese New Year, making this a festive season to remember.

Civil servant Eric Chan, 32, also said that the news of a potential downturn "hasn't changed or affected" his buying patterns, in terms of "the types of Christmas gifts" he would buy.

Mr Chan and Ms Choo aren't the only ones who are helping to keep the cash registers ringing. In a survey by Visa, half of the respondents from eight key Asia-Pacific markets said they plan to keep their year-end shopping budgets the same as last year's.

On average, the respondents plan to spend US$701 (S$918) on travel, shopping and gifts during the festive season via online channels, 1 per cent more than in the previous year.

The purchasing mood in Singapore is healthy, too, with last month's MasterCard survey on consumer purchasing priorities showing that 68 per cent of Singaporeans plan to spend the same or more on luxury items valued at US$1,000 or more in the coming months.

But some, like youth worker Rachel Loh, are being cautious. The 25-year-old is looking for practical gifts for her family, many of whom are avid readers (hint, hint). For some of her friends, she may give hand- made gifts instead.

Ms Loh, who expects to spend about $100 on gifts, said that, in the end, it's the person who matters the most in this season of giving.

If she feels that someone really does want - and could use - a gift that is out of her budget, she "will think of ways to buy it, such as by getting others to share the bill".

Similarly, sales-operations executive Joseph Chang, 31, is not splurging on a Christmas gift for his fiancee this year.

"We just bought a flat and we are saving up for our wedding next year," he said. "To us, it is more important to keep the spirit of giving and sharing alive throughout our relationship, rather than spend a bomb on one event."

Indeed, in a poll of 1,000 children by British company Butlins, a majority of the kids said that, instead of getting presents, they'd rather spend time with their parents and immediate family members.

So, whether you're being careful or are in the mood to spend big, know that quality time trumps all.

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