Thought out laybys can make Christmas happy
The humble layby.
It’s the poor, neglected child of retail.
And sometimes, like an orphan who falls into the hands of a Fagin-like character, layby can be warped into something rotten.
I saw my first mid-winter Christmas television ad this week.
I was watching a wildlife doco with my 9-year-old and so was forced to explain what a layby was. Ordinarily, my daughter wouldn’t have been that interested, but the advert was for ToyWorld, so her consumer radar pinged.
I explained that a shop offering laybys would set aside the things you wanted, and you then paid them a little each week until they were paid off. Then you went and collected them.
Alien concept. My daughter lives in a home where toys are bought with cash. If you want something, you save for it from your pocket money, or wait for a birthday, or get such a good school report your dad decides you deserve a reward.
I explained about families who haven’t got a heap of cash for whom laybys were a good option. That didn’t make sense either. Why didn’t they just save up little by little?
Because, I explained, when money was tight, a layby could bring a savings discipline, taking money out of a household so the temptation to use it for something else was removed. OK, that made sense. The humble layby is a wonderful thing. It’s a shame it has mutated in the hands of some retailers and lenders.
You have to be careful, as it now sometimes comes with high cancellation fees, especially if it is a layby through an online shop. One online store has a cancellation fee of $25 to $250 of the money paid by the customer. And the magic of low monthly payments allows hamper companies working under the laybys laws to charge high prices for stuff that can be bought much cheaper in the shops.
But the worst warping for me are those ‘‘buy-now, pay-back slowly’’ deals from the likes of DTR and Instant Finance.
They look a bit like laybys, except you can take the TV/table/ fridge home immediately.
The truth is they aren’t laybys, they are loans which feel like laybys and they cost the earth.
The layby comes into its own in the run-up to Christmas, which ToyWorld indicates starts around now. For me there are seven key Christmas money rules.
1: Savings accounts and laybys are the way to fill stockings with toys, but always do the laybying in real stores like The Warehouse and ToyWorld so you pay real store prices.
2: Supermarket vouchers and savings schemes are the way to ensure there’s a decent spread for the table.
3: If you end up paying credit card or personal loan interest as a result of Christmas, you are doing it wrong.
4: One good present five so-so ones.
5: Go easy on the booze, and don’t drink a drop until the kids are in bed. It saves money, and reduces brooding and family squabbles.
6: Good Christmases are about family, not stuff. Take a family walk. Have a picnic at the beach. Make mince pies and take them to friends. Establish traditions the kids can be nostalgic about later.
7: Turn the television off in the month before Christmas, and leave it off on Christmas Day. That shuts off much of the pressure to do Christmas the retailers’ way.