With the collapse of HMV we are seeing another high street retailer close its doors - sad news for their employees, but also sad for high streets around the country and for their former customers. We've seen a pattern of closures over the last few years, although some chains that have edged towards collapse have been saved at the last minute. The first part of this pattern is that gift vouchers and other forms of credit are halted, and shortly after, stores are closed, either selectively or wholesale.
Closure of so many retailers has left consumers with millions of pounds of worthless gift vouchers and gift cards. In these troubled times it really makes you think about the value of these lines of shop credit. The recent recsession has hit every retailer and it's almost impossible to predict who will go next. The worst part is that customers have loyally bought gift vouchers as a way of gifting money with the intention to buy something fun, so that the money doesn't just end up paying the bus fare or for a drink. However, these same customers would be heartbroken to learn that their gift was now worthless.
In hard times it really does beg the question as to whether you should gift vouchers or rather give money instead. While it may be considered vulgar to give money (who perpetuates that myth?!), at least money will keep its value, is universally accepted and immune to the collapse of individual stores.
If you want to gift money to your children, nephews, nieces or friends for their birthdays or other events, then consider carefully how safe that gift is. The store you have in mind may seem to be trading buoyantly but we tend to sit on gift vouchers...how will that store fare 6 months or a year from now? In this uncertain economic climate, perhaps it's time we saw a return to the traditional gifting of money. At least your hard earned cash won't be written off overnight at some time in the future...
Over the last few years we've noticed that the cost of toys across many retail websites, and in shops, see a marked increase as Christmas approaches, and worse than that, stock availability is often poor during the festive season. Sometimes the price of individual items rises, in other instances, special offers that were available in earlier parts of the year disappear in the run-up to Christmas.
Our advice is to do your Christmas shopping early. Start looking for genuine bargains over the next few weeks and months. If you know some of the toys or other products that you want to buy then start monitoring their prices now and see if they come into a sale during the autumn.
Shopping early does mean that you could miss the number one Christmas toy, but if that's the only toy that you buy in the run up to Christmas, you can save yourself, quite literally, hundreds of pounds.
The New Year sales offer a great opportunity to stock up on birthday presents for the coming year. The only downside is that you need space to store everything until birthdays arrive, but if you have a cupboard out of the way, you can make dramatic savings.
Once you have children, Christmas takes on a different focus - it's more magical, more emotive, almost certainly more expensive, but slightly unwelcome is the fact that is can be stressful because of the danger of even more children's tantrums. The excitement, the joy, the sheer exhaustion of the whole event can render the best behaved child into little monsters! So, what can we do to avoid these embarrassing meltdowns in front of the in-laws or the jealous rage just after Santa has delivered the presents? Here are a few tips!
- Tire them out! There is nothing worse than your toddler waking at 4am on Christmas morning, shouting from his bed, "Daddy, has Santa been yet?" So, make sure that on Christmas Eve you tire the kids out. Dress up warmly and go for a long walk; play some games in the park. What ever you do, just don't have a lazy day at home or they'll be up really, really early!
- Sleep time. Don't forget to try and keep to your children's normal routine, including naps and mealtimes, in order to keep their Christmas running smoothly. Don't give in to relative's pleas of keeping them up late or foregoing a nap. Stand firm and say no! Otherwise, they'll be over run with excitement and will collapse with the lack of routine and it could spoil Christmas for everyone. Keep things as "normal" as possible!
- Sweets on Christmas morning. If your children get a pile of chocolate and sweets make it clear that they can eat them, but that there are rules! Chocolate and sweets should be rationed over time and eaten later in the day. They'll last longer and you won't suffer a crazy sugar surge before breakfast that could put you all in a bad mood!
- Present mountain. It's great to have a pile of lovely gifts for your kids to open on Christmas morning. It's so nice to see their excited faces as they rip open wrapping paper. But, remember that your little ones don't necessarily need masses of expensive gifts from parents - especially if you have friends or family who'll be giving presents too. You can get some reasonably priced presents at cheaper shops which will be as exciting to open... but cost less!
- More pudding? Don't expect too much from your little ones during dinner. Sitting through a long chatty dinner is not going to be easy for them, so give them a normal portion of food and let them leave the table when they are done! No one will expect them to remain to make polite conversation while the adults finish-off their second helpings.