With just a few days left before Christmas, and readers running out of time and maybe a few ideas for what to get those impossible-to-buy-for loved ones, I have dusted off the MoneyTimes ‘Last Ditch Christmas Present List’ which is long on ideas and short on expense.
Of course, for the giver with no budget restraints there’s always the purchase of a Bitcoin or two. The original virtual currency, it was priced at a giddy €14,421 ($16,465) per virtual coin at time of writing, and a Daddy or Mammy Warbucks can make their purchase entirely on-line and not leave the leave the comfort of their own living room and laptop.
The virtual wallet in which Bitcoin resides comes with a unique passcode which you don’t ever want to misplace. Bitcoin, which would have cost about €800 this time last year is completely anonymous and outside the supervision or adjudication of banks and regulators so if it goes missing or is stolen there’s no one to turn to for restitution or compensation.
Compared to the original Bitcoin, (there are now hundreds of imitators) precious metals like gold, at just c€1,060 for a one ounce real coin at time of writing, looks like a bargain.
The price of gold has been moving sideways for about the last five years after slipping c18% from its 2013 all time high, or since the euro crisis in Europe eased after the Greek debt disaster was averted (just about.)
Now that Bitcoin is heading towards the price stratosphere amid periodic gut-wrenching pullbacks a nice shiny gold coin at the bottom of a Christmas stocking is unlikely to cause quite the same heart palpitations if you’re the sort who can’t resist watching the daily virtual currency price rollercoaster. (My financial adviser’s view of Bitcoin’s price movement, for what it’s worth, is akin to his view of the 16th century tulip mania or the dot.com mania or Irish property price mania: “Crazy prices last only until the get-rich-quick wannabees decide they don’t make sense anymore and stop buying.”
Not quite as exciting or expensive as Bitcoin or gold, this is my tried and tested 2017 MoneyTimes ‘Last Ditch Christmas Present List’ :
- A gift voucher from your local neighbourhood shop, whether the butcher, baker or candlestick maker …or the wine shop, restaurant, hotel, florist, beautician, cinema, electrician, clothing boutique or hardware store. Just be sure to double-check any expiry date and then remind the beneficiary that they mustn’t forget to use it before the deadline.
- A Gift-for-All card. Extremely convenient and handy, these plastic cards are sold in your local Post Office and can be used in thousands of retail, outlets and shopping malls (including grocery stores and utility providers) around the country. Hopefully, whomever you give one to will spend it locally.
- Prize Bonds. I’ve never been a fan of the Prize Bond company – these are not ‘investments’ as they pay no interest or yield. They are a game of chance, but now that deposit accounts pay no real return either, a gift of Prize Bonds is a perfectly fine last minute gift you can buy at the Post Office and they remain current even if you win a prize.
- Any coin collectors on your list? Check out the Central Bank’s www.collectorscoins.ie website. The latest issue celebrates the 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift. It may not arrive in time if ordered this late, but you can download the page and details and pop that into a gift card.
- Theatre, music or art lovers on the list will enjoy getting tickets or becoming a ‘Member’ of their local concert hall or art gallery. Members of the National Gallery enjoy ticket discounts or free entry to exhibitions that charge fees. (Membership to most organisations like these can be done online and the documentation downloaded into a Christmas Card.)
- Make a donation gift. There’s no shortage of good causes or charities that you could make a financial donation to on behalf of your entire family, or particular members (or even in memory of a loved one who has died in the past year.)
- Give a gift of time. You know the drill by now if you’re a regular reader: offer a set number of babysitting or grannysitting hours. Help someone milk their cows or dig their Spring garden. Offer to give music lessons or math grinds or any other kind of expertise you may have – cookery, candlemaking or car maintenance.
Finally, I know someone, a retired bachelor accountant who every Christmas anonymously tips €3,000 – the amount anyone can give anyone entirely tax free in the course of a year - to a random stranger, usually someone he meets working in the hospitality or retail industry.
A Happy Christmas indeed.