When I ran women’s development programmes all around the city, I really enjoyed designing and delivering the personal finance training. I told clients how my mum used to do her budgeting on the back of an envelope.

No matter what time of year I delivered the training — in January or August — there would always be at least one woman who already had her Christmas shopping completed. This would usually make the rest of the class roar with surprise or laughter.

If you are like me and leave some shopping until now (anyone else find themselves sitting on a computer on Christmas morning buying tickets for someone as a gift?) then there is still time to support our artists,.

If you want to dabble in art buying, there are two bits of advice I like to give. The first I picked up at the London Art Fair: decide your budget for art for the year—  even if it’s £100. It's amazing what you can build up over a few years. Each year you can raise or lower the amount set aside for original art. This way you are less likely to make expensive mistakes. If you get fed up with your purchase, there is a second hand resale market in art auctions.

APRÉS LA DELUGE: After the Rain by Majella Clancy in Gallery 545

APRÉS LA DELUGE: After the Rain by Majella Clancy in Gallery 545

The second piece of advice comes from Susan Abraham who used to work in a successful gallery: “buy something you like."

Many galleries at this time of the year have group shows so you can have an opportunity to see a selection of some of the work available. The more you look, the more things can catch your eye and the easier it is to decide what you might like. If it’s for someone else, bring them along and ask which is their favourite piece —  then sneak back later and get it. Some galleries have an online facility. This can be useful if you are pushed for time but there is nothing quite like picking out a piece from an exhibition or seeing it in real life first.

Fenderesky Gallery at 31 North Street was established in 1983 and has a changing exhibition of small works (open Wednesday to Saturday until December 23 12- 5pm) including some beautiful small paintings by established artists. It represents among others Ronnie Hughes who has just opened a major exhibition at the Mac.

On the same street at number 59, The Engine Room Gallery has three floors of paintings and sculpture. Around the corner in Cotton Court, Belfast Print Workshop has its annual members exhibition running, some prints are available online but there is much more choice if you go down and look with some expert printmakers on hand to guide you. Or if you have a budding printmaker around the new year classes are scheduled. Gift certificates also available. 

Belfast Exposed Photography Gallery at 23 Donegall Street has a really compelling exhibition by Paul Seawright at the moment. Entitled Beasts of Burden, it focuses on Rwanda's 'cows of peace'  project where — 25 years after the genocide in which one million were murdered — perpetrators are paired with their victims to raise a cow together to reconcile. There is a limited edition photographic print for sale that supports the project and upstairs a selection of photographers' work for sale. The photographic art market is a multimillion pound one world-wide but there are usually fewer opportunities to see a selection of work. Courses are also available to book online. 

Artisann on Bloomfield Avenue is open for visitors and also sells online. Uphold is the online platform representing a new generation of artists in the city including the Array Collective who belong to a generation that wants to make opportunities for themselves as the more traditional galleries are not representing them.

Also online is Francesca Bondi of Gallery 545 who is offering free delivery of art over £500 for Uk and Ireland with an interesting selection of Artists. 

If all this is making your head spin and you are thinking, "I could never own a piece of art" then there is the 'own art' which can help you purchase from £100 -£2000 and pay it over a ten month period (much the same way you might buy furniture or a car). There are currently eleven galleries in the North of Ireland that are part of the scheme.  

You can buy works from the Royal Ulster Academy exhibition through the scheme — the show runs at the Ulster Museum until Januar.y all the works are online. The Vault Pop-up shop at Portview Trade Centre is open Friday 2-6pm, Saturday 2-6pm and Sunday 12-3pm 

Some artists are now going direct to the public with online websites, including Rosie McGurran. Finally, Katie Lindsay Gallery has a great first exhibition with Colin Watson. 

So there you go. Professiona artists do appreciate a sale. Let's not make arts administrators the only ones making a living out of art in Belfast. Merry Christmas.