Spending it: Peru, cheaper Amazon – and weddings

Hilaire Gomer.-   I’ve  been in Peru for over two weeks. What a treat of a lifetime. It’s a beautiful country, framed at every point by the wondrous, snow covered Andes  mountains – like Scotland but awesomely more so. It is made for tourism because it has vicuna, alpaca, llama – and condor – to photograph. Its people  are Catholic and speak Spanish. In the villages they wear amazing coloured clothes and hold festivals often.

Peru has much going for it except there is not enough effective government.  It continues to suffer from the endemic corruption of Latin America. Superficially it is not third but second world.  For tourists most things happen (the buses are cheap and the phones work), but sewage isn’t right yet (no tissue down the pan), quality workmanship is a rarity, and it’s always bottled water, sold wierdly by Coca Cola.

The weather in Peru is even more changeable than Britain’s: cold, then windy, then hot, then back to cold.  Dusk  is quick, the nights are cold. The people are pessimists about the weather and wear their delightful hats and practical padded jackets most of the time.

It’s a shame that most Peruvians are not well off despite some oil and also minerals. They yearn  patiently for good teaching and jobs for their children, more health care, better housing and pensions. Familiar needs among the less advantaged in our society?

Many of the women start work  as street sellers young, in cities like Cusco, carrying their gorgeous babies on their backs wrapped in bright cloths.  They work long hours into old age. They sell acrylic hats and scarves to jaded tourists.  Most haven’t got the money to buy what tourists prefer: quality garments made with alpaca (their wool is warmer and costlier than llama’s). One traveller quipped at the end of another exhausting day, “We are all alpaca’d out.”

Help boost Peru’s economy by visiting the country, the exchange rate is good but you will still spend plenty.  There is lots to see, like the unique Inca ruins. Yes, it does cost more than a coach trip to Monet’s garden in Giverny, but  any wedding couple could budget for Peru as a honeymoon destination (see below).

I went with London-based Llama Travel: being part of a tour is reassuring. If you want to make big savings, just pick a skeletal deal and sort out your own internal Peru trips to this and that when you get to Lima, like the back packers. There are loads of travel agents in every town only too keen to help.  But it is easy to say this once one has been there, and felt safe.

Go pension pot spend crazy, kill two birds with one stone and fly to Ecuador to see the Galapagos Islands as well, save one 12 hour air flight.

I decided not to do this because apart from the serious expense, I felt it might be too mind boggling in one trip, but lots of travellers do.


Multi bargain web site, Zeezaw. The best thing since sliced bread?

 Zeezaw.co.uk  is the UK’s first ‘price drop’ website, Amazon backed and set to save us lots of money, and  should be particularly appealing to pensioners.

Amazingly, it claims that consumers can save up to over 90 per cent on Amazon merchandise. Apparently it works especially well with big ticket items like electronic hardware (TVs and MP3 players) and computer software.

Jim McLachlan, managing director of the software developer OSS Ltd, based in Fort William, Scotland, came up with the idea two years ago but said that there are already similar products in the US.

It seems it’s a case of setting up a wish list, or getting the wish list of friends and family. What the friend wants may be too pricey now, but when the price comes down, Zeezaw will send an email alert to you.

McLachlan commented, “People just aren’t prepared to pay the ticket price and are often happy to wait for special offers and sales. I see Zeezaw as filling a huge gap in market.

“I’m thrilled that the UK now has the opportunity to make substantial savings when buying presents …. I feel that Zeezaw will come into its own especially on the run up to Christmas, anniversaries and for birthdays….and it has appeal for the wedding gift market.”


Hurray, at last engaged couples are cutting back on the expensive business of tying the knot.

A bit of austerity and a bit of modesty is no bad thing.  After 20 years of  people spending a king’s ransome on their marriage, a survey suggests that things are a’ changing.  Sadly the survey  does not conclude that the more money a couple spend on the marriage day, the higher are their chances of experiencing a lasting one.

Maybe now that couples need so much money to secure a 1-2 bed flat, they see the sense of restraint.  The spend on nuptials in a Normandy monastery with 12 ushers in morning suits and 12 bridesmaids in pink organdi could have make a significant contribution to the mortgage down payment? The survey is welcome news for beleaguered parents and grandparents who generously give their own savings to help meet spiralling wedding bills.

The Nationwide’s interesting survey has found that whereas 25-35 year olds spend most on weddings at around £11,000 a go, couples (notably the bride) are now cutting down hugely on the number of friends and family they invite – by almost 40 per cent to cut costs.

The average London wedding costs the most at around £10,000, with unpretentious East Anglia clocking in at around £5,700 at the bottom.

Weddings have changed in the last 20 years.  They aspire to perfection in every aspect,  and money becomes no object to achieve that. Him indoors and  I haven’t been to a wedding for a generation because when the children of our friends get married aged 30+ they ask their contemporaries, not their parent’s friends. I remember, as in Four Weddings & a Funeral, weddings once had no ageism.

It found that items most likely to be reduced included: the number of guests (down by 37 per cent), the dress (a third less), the tab on the drinks bar  (down a third), and the food ( also down a third).

According to the Nationwide, least likely to be cut were: the wedding rings, flowers, the cake, presents and the suits.

Phil Smith, the Nationwide’s head of current accounts is worried about the inevitable threat to his members’ cash flow: “We would always encourage people to start planning and saving asap  to allow for all the different costs, so the current account isn’t plundered as the big day approaches.”

I know a hard-up family in Salisbury that “did it” for £2,000 in 2013, with friends bringing food and bottles of bubbly. A big success  and enhanced by the feel good factor.