If you are used to your partner doing the Christmas shopping and need to buy gifts for friends and family don't panic. Here are some ideas to help make shopping easier. (See below for gift ideas for children)

  • Shop online. Don't rush about trying to find presents in the shop. Most high street stores and supermarkets have online websites with straighforward instructions on how to use them.
  • Buy gift vouchers. Don't see this as opting out. Young people particularly like the opportunity to choose their own gifts and this way you be sure that they will get something they really want
  • Avoid clothes. People's tastes vary as do sizes from shop to shop so to avoid any embarrasment or the risk of choosing something that will never be worn, opt for vouchers instead. Jewellery, however, is fine. Discuss the age of the person you are buying for at the jewellers
  • Buy books. A one off visit to a bookstore should solve all of your problems with something to suit the ages and tastes of everyone. You could try www.amazon.co.uk
  • Go for the unusual. A gift does not have to be wrapped and enjoyed on the day. It can be something to be enjoyed later on, for example tickets to the cinema, the theatre or a concert, a day out, beauty treatment session, tour of a local football ground
  • Make something. If you are short of cash make cakes, sweets, pickles, home made wine or buy a candle making kit, paint pictures or whatever your talents lead you to. People will appreciate the effort more than an expensive gift  

What about vouchers? - they're easier, you can't get it wrong and your child will love choosing their own present. For teenagers clothing vouchers are best... never ever buy a teenager clothes unless they have told you exactly what they want. Get the wrong size and you could cause major offence and ask yourself, did you ever like the clothes your parents chose for you? Give vouchers with a special touch such as a card with a photograph of the two of you doing something special together on the front.

If you do want to buy a present ask them to make a list of what they might want for Christmas. This way you can choose and know you have got it right. Talk to your ex to make sure you don't duplicate and always keep the receipt just incase. Remember not to buy anything with small parts for under threes - go for bright, coloured interactive toys. For young children activity based toys, paints, art sets, construction or chocolate and jewellery making kits are a big hit. For older children a CD, book or poster on their favourite pop or film star. Find a small, independent music store as these are great places to find limited editions and memorabilia.

You could buy lots of small presents such as soap, perfume, pens, glitter, sweets, magazines etc, wrap them individually and put them into a cardboard box with shredded paper. Then wrap the box. Children, especially young ones, will love delving through the paper and finding lots of small gifts to open.

For older teenagers you may want to give a memorable present such as cinema, theatre or concert tickets, an activity day out e.g. kart racing, a makeover or beauty treatment. Remember when booking tickets to ensure that your child will be available for the event.

Finally, if you're on a tight budget stick to it. It might be tempting to buy expensive gifts to score points off your ex, but it doesn't help when you are still struggling to pay off your credit card bill in July or you can't afford to put petrol in your car to go and see your kids - go for sentiment rather than expense.