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After whispers of an official UK recession, many of us are tightening our belts and watching the pennies. Some of us are doing this out of necessity, others by default. The subliminal doom and gloom has got many thinking twice about their purchasers.

This takes me back to the apocalyptic crash of the late 80s. Those who were around at the time can certainly draw comparisons.

I remember a City Lawyer ‘confessing’ about his pay rise to me in hushed tones and then admitting he’d been flying to Italy at weekends to shop – thus avoiding the social embarrassment of bumping into a colleague on Sloane St or in fact being seen to be ‘free spirited’ with the plastic at a time when his peer group were taking a pair of scissors and a blow torch to their previously coveted collection of credit cards.

Later, he fretted about buying a gift for his brother. If he didn’t spend enough he was ‘tight’ and if he opted for a cool bit of British luxury from Paul Smith or Aspreys and indulged his sibling, then he was showboating. To make matters worse the brother in question had just been relieved of his ‘job for life’ in the City and was sat at home fighting thoughts of an alternative career that paid one tenth of his basic.

This leads me back to a similar quandary quite a few of my colleagues find themselves in some 20 years later. What does one do when buying a birthday gift for a family member? How does one avoid the potentially sticky tag of Showboat or Scrooge? Answers on a postcard. No, in fact that costs too much. It’s got to me too, just email.