Staff reporter WATCHING what you spend this Christmas is recommended by the Balearic government's consumer board, and, in the case of buying toys, checking that these comply with European safety regulations should be a priority. It is also advisable to check that product labelling provides a guideline of the age group for which the toy is suitable. Manuela Messeguer, consumer affairs director, stressed that another important issue is that the consumer should keep the receipts of their purchases, in the case of their having to make later claims, in the event of the goods proving shoddy. She also emphasized that consumers should plan their spending and go out to buy as soon as possible, checking that the offers advertised by companies in their literature coincide with what is paid for at the cash desk. “It's important to make a budget and a list for purchasing only the things that you really have in mind to buy”, said Messeguer, who urged shoppers “not to get carried away” with the spirit of Christmas celebrations. Messeguer's department, a branch of the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, recommends that people should decide the menus of special lunches and dinners in advance, in order to have a better chance of acquiring products such as lamb, suckling pig, red bream, hake and grapes, in prime condition. These items have a much higher price close to Christmas. The director, who also advised the preparation of “alternative” dishes, reassured people that consumer department inspectors have stiffened their controls “of the product offers on the market, especially at Christmas time, such as shellfish, sparkling wines, etc.” Messeguer's department furthermore suggested that people pay attention to the expiry dates on products which are being sold “on offer”. Customers should remember that traders are obliged to substitute defective articles, regardless of whether they were sold at a reduced price or not. With respect to toys on sale this Christmas, Messeguer praised a government campaign which strongly advises paying attention to different labelling aspects, guaranteeing the safety of the toys in the hands of youngsters. The campaign highlights the importance of choosing toys as gifts which are appropriate to the age of the recipient. “It's essential to bear the age of the child in mind and to check that the toy “comes apart” as little as possible. There are, for example, little dolls that can easily be dismantled, and in the hands of a child of 3 years of age, that could be dangerous. “The pieces could end up in their mouths, asphyxiating them. There are toys for older children, such as plastic pistols with bullets which could also be dangerous” warned the director. She emphasised that it is “not recommended” to buy toys that don't have the distinctive CE label, a sign that guarantees compliance with European by-laws on product safety. Such toys usually come with an indication of the age for which the product is recommended. The consumer department also put it to parents that they should see that their children make a distinction between the toy in an advert and the real product.