Stand up to pester power this Christmas

Does this sound familiar? "Mum, I really need the new iPhone for Christmas. All my friends have got one. It's not fair I've only got your old work BlackBerry."

Or how about, "Grandad, please can I have the new Xbox? It can be from you and Gran and be for my birthday too. I won't ask for anything else for a whole year, I promise"?

With just over four shopping weeks until Christmas, pester power is reaching fever pitch and the incessant ads that pepper children's TV programmes and flash during internet games have much to answer for.

"Companies have realised how powerful children and young people are as consumers," says Jeremy Todd, chief executive of parenting support charity Family Lives. "Many marketing and advertising campaigns aggressively target children and young people. At Christmas especially, new toys and gadgets come on to the market and many children and young people want to get their hands on them."

Designer clothes, iPads, iPhones, Xbox & PlayStation games can overstretch the family budget, he adds. So much so, in fact, the charity's free helpline receives thousands of calls from parents at Christmas, feeling guilty for not being able to afford everything their children want.

But with present demands coming in thick and fast - and your income most likely flatlining - how can you strike the balance between not giving in to your child's or grandchild's every whim but not feeling guilty for spoiling them, either?

Here are some top tips:

1. Set a limit

Examine what you can comfortably afford to spend on each child and to help you stick to that amount, limit younger children to, say, five or six items on their list for Santa and give older children a rough budget.

2. When you say 'no', mean it – and don't cave in

Remember you are saying no for a reason. Explain why the reason is no so they understand nagging you just won't work. If you have older children, it is important to be firm. Don't give them an opportunity to haggle with you.

3. Compromise

If the item really means a lot to them, you may be able to reach a compromise with older children by agreeing to share the cost with them or other relatives.

4. Have tactics

Agree tactics with your partner so your kids or grandkids who they can't play you off against each other. It'll also prevent you from undermining each other.

5. Set ground rules

If you are separated or divorced, try to set ground rules with your ex-partner. If this is not possible, remember all the things you do give your children and don't beat yourself up that your ex gives more expensive or bigger presents.

6. Don't feel guilty

When you're feeling guilty, remember that children change their minds every other week while trying to keep up eight the latest trends.

7. Don't shop with the kids

Leave the kids at home when you do a big food shop or go present shopping. This can take the pressure off and leave you to shop in peace without your kids nagging for presents.

8. Package bluffing

Remind yourself that children often get more satisfaction from the size of a box the present comes in, or how pretty the packaging looks, than from the presents themselves. So go to town on the packaging instead of traipsing back and forth to the shops.

9. Don't spoil them

Take a look at their already-bulging toy chests. Of course, there are toys that they get huge enjoyment from year after year, but most kids have cupboards full of stuff that was played with once or twice and then shelved.

10. Make extra cash

Suggest they sell off some of last year's expensive gadgets they're now bored with and put what that brings in towards this year's hoard.