For something that happens fairly predictably, Christmas has a knack of creeping up on us financially. We’re suddenly hit with the horrible challenge of finding hundreds of pounds from nowhere — or facing the ultimate threat of ruining Christmas.
Each year Hargreaves Lansdown does a piece of research looking into the cost of Christmas, and it’s always horribly expensive.
On average, those who celebrate the day will spend an average of £576, with almost one-in-three parting with over £500 and one-in-eight forking out over £1,000. Men will splash the cash even more enthusiastically, with an average of £622.
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However, we’re taking steps to make life a bit cheaper this year. Two-in-five said they would cut their costs, and among women and the squeezed middle (aged 35-54) this rises to around half.
Young people, aged 18-34, are less concerned, and happier to keep spending. They fork out more than any other age group — an average of £633. Almost one in three say they’re planning to spend more than they did a year earlier.
There’s always the hope that this group includes plenty of those who are moving up the career ladder and have a bit more cash. However, there’s a risk that they’re prioritising the hunt for a perfect Christmas over their financial security, so they could come to regret it later.
The research also looked into the ways people are planning to cut back this year and found a significant chunk of people have already honed their frugal festive habits over the years.
Around half (48%) always shop around for the best price on presents, while two-in-five buy food from discount supermarkets, and wait for sales and discounts before they fork out for presents.
Around a quarter of us have good years and bad years, and know the steps we’re prepared to take when we need to. Waiting for the sales is the most common approach (28%), followed by spending less on each present (25%) and buying cheaper food and drink (25%).
Meanwhile, some people are tightening their belt for the first time this year. Presents are most likely to get the chop, with a quarter spending less on each person, and one-in-five buying for fewer friends and family.
We’re also cutting back on food and drink, with a quarter of us buying less of it and one-in-five buying cheaper items.
But there are some things we refuse to budge on. Half of us have never regifted an unwanted present, and say they never would.
Two-in-five said they couldn’t possibly ever consider having fewer guests on Christmas Day in order to keep the costs down, and almost a third ruled out the possibility of ever socialising less over the festive period. It seems the last few years have given us our fill of celebrating at home.
How to cut the cost of Christmas
If you’ve cut all the usual costs, and considered some of the changes you usually make in tougher times, there may still be some wiggle room to bring down your spending even further.
If you can’t face the thought of having fewer guests over for the big day, on top of trading down to cheaper food and drink, you could ask your family to bring something with them – whether that’s the pudding or the crackers.
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If you’re among the quarter of people who have never considered buying fewer presents or spending less on each person, then it’s worth having a chat with your family to see whether they’d also welcome the chance just to buy for the kids, or to set a limit.
If you’re among the half of people who have never regifted anything, you’re missing a trick. If you arrange to meet up with friends after Christmas, you don’t even have to make a secret of it, you can arrange to pass on a gift each year – and then it’s up to you whether to regift the horrible, scented drawer liners from your Aunty Maud or that nice bottle of scotch from your dad.