Give the gift of thrift

The autobiography of a meerkat called Aleksandr Orlov, an iPad and a Jet Pack Buzz Lightyear look set to be this year's Christmas best-sellers. But sometime in 2011, they will probably be forgotten about and replaced by something newer and more exciting.

So, this Christmas, why not give something of more lasting value? Giving a loved one a present around saving or making money, or teaching a child about the basics of finance, are wise choices in these austere times. Ruth Emery highlights some ideas.


Everyone likes a good book under the Christmas tree, but most of them tend to be throw-away celebrity autobiographies, thumbed quickly then taken to a charity shop as part of the spring clean.

There are lots of educational books, though, for children and for adults grappling with mortgages or perhaps unsure of their retirement options.

Martin Bamford, managing director of Informed Choice, says: "Books make good gifts because they can help to improve financial education. For children, this is largely missing from the school curriculum, so gifting an interesting personal finance book can really help."

He suggests Rich Dad's Rich Kid, Smart Kid by Robert Kiyosaki (£5.39 on Amazon) that parents can use to teach their children the basics of finance.

The Pocket Money Plan by Julie Hedge (£8.96) offers simple practical advice and works well for parents reading it with children aged five to 15, while The Teenager's Guide to Money by Jonathan Self (£4.74) is an ideal read for older children.

Bamford's own The Money Tree (£5.78) is an idea for adults: an accessible book for different knowledge levels. Which? also has a wide range of books covering topics, such as buying your first house and pensions.

As banks and building societies ramp up the fees associated with withdrawing money abroad, one way around this is to use a currency card that you can load with money and has no ATM fees. These cards can make useful presents, for example, for a teenager about to embark on gap-year travelling.

Caxton FX is one such currency card provider and a spokeswoman explains how it can be bought as a present: "It's simply a secondary card that is linked to the main cardholder's account. When you apply for a card, you can get a secondary card that can be used by anyone you specify over the age of 13.

This allows the secondary cardholder to withdraw cash or pay for goods just like a credit or debit card abroad but importantly without being able to spend more than you preload or incurring any ATM fees and transaction charges.

"The other advantages are the fact that the main cardholder can view the balance and transactions and can top up the card if necessary."

"Perhaps the most important gift for younger children is a piggy bank, and the encouragement to save some of their pocket money each week," comments Bamford.

John Lewis has a great line in 'piggy' banks, ranging from penguins and dogs to Peter Rabbit and the Gruffalo.Savings accounts can also be opened, which allow friends and family to deposit money that can be accessed when the child is older.

Bamford highlights the Halifax Children's Regular Saver, which offers 6% gross (4.8% net) with a minimum deposit of £10 and 12-month term, as a good deal. The account is held in trust for the child, and can be opened by anyone; they don't have to be related.

For older children, a must-have financial gift is their own account at their local bank or building society. This will teach them about personal finance as it gets them accustomed to using bank facilities and understanding bank statements.

And with birthday and Christmas money put straight into the account, as well as the child depositing pocket money, they should also build up a tidy sum.

Bamford points out the top-paying Santander 11-15 Current Account (for 11 to 15-year-olds), offering 3% gross with a £1 minimum deposit and instant access. Santander also has a similar current account for 16 to 18-year-olds.

Watch or Moneywise TV piece: Save for your child's future


An antique watch is a present that can be neatly wrapped yet still has money-making potential. It can be enjoyed first and sold later.

Dennis Hall, founder of Yellowtail Financial Planning, says: "Antique watches from makers like Rolex, Omega and Patek Phillipe have a function as well as collectability. Quality makers will always have a collectors market, and though the price may fluctuate, they can be sold, sometimes for a reasonable profit."

He adds: "However, stick to the quality antiques. There will be modern day watches that will have a value, but they are probably harder to predict."

Patrick Van Der Vorst, founder of and a former director at Sotheby's, agrees and says Rolex and Cartier are two good brands that hold their value.

"The bigger the name, the better. Watches like that can be picked up for between £500 and £1,000. Those will normally be gold-plated. If you're after solid gold, expect to pay more than £1,000."

He adds that the market for antique watches is subdued so watches can be picked up fairly cheaply now and then resold for a good profit when demand picks up again.


Fine wine is a tangible present that can be given on Christmas Day, and as long as the temptation to drink it over the festive period is resisted, it can be resold at a handsome profit.

Hall notes: "The fine wine index [Liv-ex Fine Wine 100, which contains wine such as Chateau Lafite and Cheval Blanc] has shown remarkable growth since inception in September 2005 and is up 32.8% year-on-year and 28.8% in the year to date.

"It includes the top 100 wines, mainly Bordeaux, for which there is strong demand and a secondary market." A lot of demand is currently coming from China.

He adds: "From a tax perspective, if you sell it for a profit, it will be capital gains tax-free, as wine is considered to be a wasting asset."

Van Der Vorst recommends buying wine at auction. "Check that the labels are clean and crisp, not smudged or stained. And always ask a specialist at the auction for a second opinion," he adds.

Van Der Vorst says cases of 12 are the best way to buy wine, and they normally come with a price tag of £100 to £200.

"You should always buy French wine," he says. It should be stored slightly below room temperature. If you don't have anywhere suitable at home to keep it, Richard Brierley, head of fine wine at Vanquish Wine, recommends storing it at a wine storage facility which will cost around £15 per case per year.

Read our article: Buy gifts with added value this Christmas


Move over gold, silver is the hottest metal around now. The precious metal hit a 30-year high in November of $25.37 an ounce, and has risen 52% in the year. Experts believe the price has further to soar too.

There are several exchange traded funds that track the price of silver. DB Physical Silver and ETFS Physical Silver £ follow the spot price of silver, while ETFS Silver tracks an index (DJ-UBS Silver Sub-Index). They're simple to buy, just like purchasing shares on a stock exchange.

Another way to buy silver is via collectible coins. Clem Chambers, chief executive of financial market website ADVFN, says coins, ranging from a Victorian silver sixpence to a Roman silver Denarius of Hadrian, are very popular at the moment.

"Not only do coins have a big upside, you also own a beautiful piece of history," he says. "The UK's biggest dealers are Baldwin's and Spink."

Although the price of silver is rising, there is little demand for silver antiques at the moment. Van Der Vorst says an item that cost £2,000 in 1995 can now be picked up for about £500.

"There are no young collectors. But this means you can pick up a bargain now and potentially sell it at a great price when demand picks up again."

He says buyers should choose Victorian or 18th century silver pieces, and look for a maker's mark, a town mark and a date
mark to check it's genuine. "Don't go for silver-plated," he advises.

If you prefer to shop online,, a global marketplace of silver dealers, is a good place to start.


It may not be exciting but funding someone's pension early will reap great rewards for them later in life.

As Hall puts it: "Starting children early on the pension route is a good idea. A stakeholder pension for little Tom or Mary will last a lot longer than anything from Fisher-Price."

Anyone can contribute up to £2,880 a year, which is increased up to £3,600 due to tax relief. "The £2,880 annual contribution also falls within the £3,000 annual gift allowance for inheritance tax purposes," says Patrick Connolly, head of communications at AWD Chase de Vere.

Read: Drawing the most from your pension

If you're looking for a pension with a range of investment options and are keen to monitor it, there are several child SIPPs on the market. AJ Bell and Alliance Trust Savings both offer low-cost and easy-to-manage online child SIPPs.

Howard Goodship, senior client partner at Towry, says you could fund a pension for your spouse too. Women, in particular, can have underfunded pension pots and a husband can top it up.

"If the wife is working and doesn't have a pension plan the husband can currently fund up to their annual earnings or if she is not working he could fund up to £3,600 gross (£2,880 net)," he says.

This article was originally published in Money Observer - Moneywise's sister publication - in December 2010.