Thought out lay­bys can make Christ­mas happy

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.

is worth

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