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Planning Retirement Online

Safe Options

There are some presents that you can choose knowing that they will almost certainly be appreciated. They will not be wildly imaginative or creative but, if the person likes them, that's what counts.

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You need to think about what kind of person the recipient is. Is it someone who sometimes likes unusual things and will treasure them for that even if it's not something that was on top of their wish list? Maybe they hadn't thought about it all but appreciate it for the thought that you have put in and the originality. If so, the safe option might not be the best bet and you may need to put a bit more thought into it.

However, if the person is someone who is fairly staid and traditional, then a safe option is a good bet. You still need to bear in mind their hobbies, likes and so on but there is plenty to choose from.

  • Books. Books are probably the safest bet of all - providing the recipient likes reading of course! If you don't know already, find out what sort of books they like and then go to Amazon where you can type in that category and see a whole range that you can choose from. You can also get really good deals on quality books from Post Script. Alternatively, go to a bookshop such as Waterstones or W H Smith and physically see the book - some make nicer presents than others just because of their look and feel. You can always buy your choice from laterlife or Amazon afterwards, if you wish.

  • Other Reading. A magazine subscription is always popular, providing the person is interested in the subject, of course. So, if they're into genealogy, for example, you could pay for a subscription to Ancestors Magazine, which will provide a wealth of help and information. You could even pay for a year's subscription to one of the daily newspapers that runs subscription schemes - The Daily Telegraph, for example.

  • Tickets. You can buy the person a ticket for a show, a sporting event or some other event that you are sure that they'll like. You can buy tickets for a wide range of shows, sports, attractions and so on at Ticketmaster.
  • But what about something a little bit out of the ordinary but still a safe bet like an agricultural or flower show? Go to the Visit England website, where you will also find lots of ideas for events and attractions to which you can buy tickets. Perhaps you could book a free ticket to a BBC show that you know the person enjoys, or you could take them on a tour of the studios. Go to the BBC website. Of course, if it's free you'll have to take them for a meal.


  • Food and Drink. At Christmas, we might naturally buy someone a hamper but we rarely think of buying food as a present at other times of the year. Do think of it, if you know that the person likes a particular type of food. Similarly, some form of drink always makes a good, popular, safe present. There are any number of companies that do hampers, that include both food and drink, personalised bottles of champagne and all sorts of other lovely gifts consisting of either food or drink - or both. Try Bradfords, for hampers and other novelty gifts that incorporate food and drink, Avery's, a family firm of wine merchants, who offer a personal service and Scottish Gourmet Food, who provide hampers of Scottish and international food. Also have a look at laterlife's gift pages, under the Celebrating in Later Life section. In particular, look at the personalised champagne and wines pages, which are offered in conjunction with allpresent.com.

  • Vouchers. If you're unsure about exactly what the recipient of your gift would like but you know that they like something in general, like books for example, you can always play really safe and buy them vouchers so that they can go and buy their own present. This has got the disadvantage of allowing the person to know exactly how much you have spent on them but, on the other hand, it should ensure that they get something they really want. For book vouchers, you can go to National Book Tokens and either buy them online or at one of their outlets. If the person is keen on gardening, you can buy vouchers to be used at garden centres. For food and wine vouchers, try Hampers food and wine vouchers. Finally, to see a whole range of gift vouchers all in one place, have a look at High Street Vouchers.

  • Framed Photograph. Most people like photographs of relations, favourite places or of themselves. So pick a favourite from your existing collection or get a new one taken and then put it in a special frame. For the over 50s, photographs of grandchildren are especially popular.

  • Indoor Plants. Indoor plants in an attractive container are very popular with many people. You need to be quite careful to choose one that will suit the person's home in terms of size and colour but they do make very good presents. Go to Excite to see a range of places to buy house plants and then choose a holder from your local garden centre.

Of course, if you know that the person likes something, whatever it is, then it's a safe bet to buy them something related to that. However, as we all know, buying presents isn't always easy, so to be sure of pleasing someone, one of the safe options on this page should do the trick.

Try not to buy the same person a safe option every time you buy them a present. Eventually, they might think that you are lacking in either thought or imagination - or both. However, safe options never do any harm every now and again.

If you would like to help make this Guide even better, either fill in the feedback form or visit the Forum and tell us any ideas you have. In particular, tell us about the best present you have ever given or the best one you have ever received. We'll then add your ideas to the Guide.

Now read the rest of the Guide by clicking on the links in the box. It will ease the dilemma of trying to choose the perfect present.

This Guide to Choosing Presents is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses
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