Wherever you look, cash is in the news this Christmas. In India the main story has to be the ingenious ways in which some people have responded to the withdrawal of large value notes and are converting their cash hoards to legal tender. Apart from the tax implications, two points from the article struck me – the extent to which people in India store cash and the fact that 98 percent of transactions in India still involve the use of cash!
Elsewhere, ‘tis the season to be merry. In the US Christmas spending is on an upward trend, with the average American expected to spend $929 on gifts for friends and loved ones. It’s still not back to pre-recession levels but is a massive increase from the 2009 average spend of $417.
But reports from Australia suggests that we don’t always get it right when it comes to giving presents, According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Australians wasted at least $7.6 million last year. When students were asked what gifts they received and how much they would have paid for them, the research suggested that between $10 and $33 was wasted for every $100 spent. That’s a lot of waste when you consider Commonwealth Bank estimates that Australians spend $7.6 billion on seasonal gifts. In many cases it would appear the ‘ungrateful’ offspring would have preferred cash. An Australian phenomenon? Closer inspection shows the original research was carried out in the US and then applied to Australian data, But it’s Christmas so let’s be generous.
Meanwhile in Europe the Christmas Markets are in full flow. Among the most spectacular are those in Germany, where the tradition goes back to the fourteenth century. Some things don’t change and the message to tourists wishing to choose from the wide range of gifts and seasonal fayre on offer remainstake cash as stallholders rarely accept cards.
Nearer home the issue of 440 million polymer five pound notes has not been without controversy with a petition from 120,000 people calling for their withdrawal following the discovery that traces of animal fat were used in their production. On a more positive note, you could be in for a Christmas bonus if you find one of four five pound notes that include a microscopic engraving of the features of Jane Austin. Dependent on which newspaper you believe these could be worth anything between £20,000 and £50,000 each. Straightforward? Well, yes and no. According to the BBC “the engravings, which are next to Big Ben on the holographic foil, are invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen in certain lights”. Good luck everyone! Given the volume of notes involved I’ll leave it to you to decide how it compares with other Christmas lotteries.
In our household the festivities include Christmas stockings, for adults and children alike, and the search is on for appropriate content. I’m pleased to see that chocolate coins are still available everywhere I look, though the quality varies. Again two things strike me. Firstly they are, unlike some of our newer coins – all round. I haven’t seen a chocolate twenty or fifty pence piece. Meanwhile, the search for a chocolate credit card has so far been fruitless. And if you’re looking for something different this Christmas then Jamie’s Christmas Cookbook contains a recipe for ….Chocolate coins!
But enough of this talk of notes and coins. They are of course dead, except that people still want them. In the course of my researches I came across a survey from Standard Life that concluded that 56 percent of men would prefer cash rather than a Christmas present. For women the equivalent figure was a significant 45 percent. In London (65 percent) and Wales (55 percent) in particular it would appear that people aren’t too happy with their partners’ choice and would take the cash option, if available.
Happy Christmas everyone. Oh and If you’re my Secret Santa “Mine’s a ‘tenner’”! On second thoughts, make it two five pound notes and a magnifying glass.