Are you still counting up the cost of Christmas?
How much did Christmas cost you last year?
If you don't know, now would be a good time to add it all up.
Prior to the Covid pandemic of 2020-2022, our annual high street spending at Christmas was estimated to have been in the region of at least £26bn nationally. Average household expenditure on Christmas presents was around £500. In addition, almost £300 per household was spent on food and drink, travel, decorations and other items. With increased costs of living and inflation this year (2023), that situation could change. But although it is more and more difficult to obtain accurate up-to-date statistics in light of online as opposed to high street shopping, the forecasts are not promising. Christmas is still regarded as a time to spend, spend, spend... and the retailers and advertisers are all still urging us to do so. There are constant pressures on people to spend more than they can afford. This is not helped by the fact that Christmas spending still remains a key indicator of economic performance in this country, in keeping with our service-led, consumer-led economy.
Moreover, Christmas spending creeps up on you. Immediately after 25 December last year, you may have started spending for next Christmas, by buying leftover cards, wrapping paper and decorations from the shops; and maybe by investing a little money each week in a Christmas savings scheme at a local retailer - all with a view to saving money next time round. On your holidays, you may have started acquiring gifts for friends and family. And then there's the big spending rush in the run-up to Christmas itself, when we do most of our seasonal shopping. Plus travel, parties, entertainment - the lot. Meanwhile, there are the bills from the past Christmas. A large number of us start shopping for the next one with those bills still unpaid. There is now a growing movement for a 'Buy Nothing Day' to replace Black Friday, both nationally and internationally.
Help the Unfortunate
And Christmas doesn't just take its toll financially. Almost 25% of UK adults in a recent survey felt their relationships became more strained over Christmas, often brought to a head by debt or by a failure to find the ‘perfect’ gift. The workload of many solicitors dealing with matrimonial disputes notably increases in late December and early January, as does the rate of domestic violence. At least one law firm has been found to offer online sales of divorce vouchers as Christmas gifts.
So seasonal spending can cause all kinds of problems for us as individuals. But it contributes to more widespread problems as well. Have a look at 'What is CASCaid?' to see what it may be doing to the environment. We need to think how we might start to do things in a way that 'brings good news to the poor' here and elsewhere, and reflects the true meaning of Christmas.
Would you like to do things differently next time, but don't know where to begin? Have a look at our 'Planning Calendar' and 'Top Tips' pages for starters. And read Rudolph To The Rescue with your children. Start now by making your own budget. Give this handy online planner a try: Christmas Money Planner
Watch those pounds, and watch this space for more ideas!