Is it just me, or has Christmas arrived earlier than ever and become even more about the buying than ever this year?

I feel like the pressure weighing down on parents has ramped up.

And now with the big day getting closer and closer it gets harder and harder not to get all caught up in the madness of Christmas.

Everywhere you turn there are “bargains” and “must haves”, last-minute sales that you’re warned “don’t miss out” on lest your Christmas turn rubbish due to all of the stuff you haven’t purchased.

It’s at this time of year when many people are spending not because they can, but because they feel that they have to.

The stress increases as you try to even out the gifts so no one has more than someone else. So-and-so has x presents, but she only has y presents, so I’ve got to spend another £100 to make it fair.

Keeping up with the Joneses is at its worst as well.

Forget the fact that little Mia had an actual unicorn at her birthday party (actually it was a miniature pony with a headpiece) but for Christmas she’s getting all of Toys ‘R’ Us and a trip to Lapland.

We’re grown-ups, so we know that all may not be quite as it seems. That magical unicorn and trip of a lifetime might be courtesy of the never-never, aka the credit card.

Whatever the reason, there’s always going to be someone who seemingly has more than you do. More money, a bigger house, more presents, better Christmas lights. The list goes on.

Getting carried away

Of course it’s easy to go over the top when you’re a parent, particularly a first-time one.

I remember our first Christmas with our eldest, we bought about 10 gifts and I don’t think any of them stuck with her beyond the following summer.

For me I felt like that first Christmas had to be something to remember. There needed to be loads of attention paid to it. It needed to be special. How to make Christmas special? Buy stuff.

I’m not saying I’m fed up of buying Christmas presents. Far from it. I love buying a gift I’ve thought about and seeing a loved one open it with a (hopefully happy) surprised look on their face.

But it feels like this pressure, and the noise that accompanies it, is drowning out the real meaning of Christmas.

Does it matter if your child has the very best bike complete with snazzy streamers on the handlebars? Or does it matter that you were there helping to push them along on the one managed to snag on eBay?

Does it matter if your house lights up the entire neighbourhood with its super festive display depicting Santa and all of his reindeer landing on the rooftop covered with (fake) snow?

So back to my original question. How much should you spend on your children at Christmas?

For me this comes down to a balance between what they have asked for and what you can afford.

If your child has been desperately wanting that new game and it’s all they’ve talked about, then it’s money well spent.

If you have a pile of gifts that you know they’ll rip through and toss to one side, then that’s great if you can afford it but maybe if you’re on a budget it’s better to stick to a few gifts that have real meaning.

It’s only going to get harder each and every year from now on.

But I’m really hoping I can ward off the temptation of too much shiny new stuff and make sure Christmas in our house is all about what it should be. Food. Lots and lots of food.