Who sits on top of the Christmas family tree?

More spent on spouse or partner at Christmas than on mum and dad combined

23 December 2013

UK adults spend more on presents for their spouse or partner than on their mum and dad combined at Christmas, according to new research¹ from Nationwide Building Society. On average, £93.79 is spent on the spouse or partner for Christmas compared to just £35.05 on mums and stepmums and £28.88 on dads and stepdads. Children account for the most money spent at Christmas with an average of £136.20 paid out.

Christmas family tree
Paying out on the family at Christmas can be a costly exercise. The Nationwide study shows that, on average, people are shelling out £271.65² on the family, including pets, for Christmas. While children account for half of the money spent over the festive period, spouses and partners equate to more than a third (35 per cent) of people’s Christmas expenditure.

Individual spend per family member²
Family member Amount spent
Children £136.20
Spouse/Partner £93.79
Mum/Stepmum £35.05
Dad/Stepdad £28.88
Sibling(s) £26.16
In-laws £24.79
Grandparent(s) £15.94
Aunt(s)/Uncle(s) £10.62
Pet(s) £10.49

Cheap or expensive?
Spouses and partners also receive the more expensive purchases at Christmas, according to the survey. More than two in five (44 per cent) respondents would spend £50 or more, with a quarter (26 per cent) of those admitting that £100 or more will be spent on their spouse or partner for Christmas.

However, this is in stark contrast to their parents, where only 14 per cent say they will spend £50 or more on their mum or stepmum. Dads and stepdads fall even further down their priority list with only nine per cent saying they would spend £50 or more.

The wider Christmas family tree
While children, spouses/partners and the parents/step-parents understandably account for the bulk (77 per cent) of people’s financial outlay at Christmas, money is still being spent on members further down the family tree for Christmas. The in-laws (£24.79) appear to get preferential treatment over the grandparents (£15.94), while aunts and uncles (£10.62) are only on a par with the family pet (£10.49) at Christmas.

Male generosity
Men are likely to spend more on family at Christmas than women with an average of £287.21 being paid out by men compared to just £257.31 by women. When it comes to individual family members, on average, women still spend more than men (£142.42 to £129.39) on the children. However, when it comes to each other, men will spend around 30 per cent more on their spouse or partner than women because while men will spend £106.48 for Christmas, women will only spend £81.34.

Graham Pilkington, Nationwide’s director for banking, comments: “It’s inevitable that the spouse or partner remains top of mind when people are out doing the Christmas shopping. After all, they will often be the first person they see on Christmas Day. However, it is a shame if people are not taking the opportunity to repay the support that the Bank of Mum and Dad has provided over the years.”

The family Scrooge
Christmas doesn’t automatically equal expenditure. In fact, Nationwide’s research shows that some will spend nothing on their family members for Christmas. Five per cent of respondents admit they will spend nothing on their children for Christmas with seven per cent of people saying their spouse or partner will get nothing. Parents may also be at risk from the Christmas cut-back this year with 13 per cent of mums and stepmums and 15 per cent of dads and stepdads receiving nothing for Christmas.

Family member % of people who spend nothing for Christmas
Child(ren) 5%
Spouse/Partner 7%
Mum/Stepmum 13%
Dad/Stepdad 15%
In-laws 18%
Grandparent(s) 20%
Sibling(s) 21%
Pet(s) 25%
Aunt(s)/Uncle(s) 35%

Graham Pilkington continues: “In this period of austerity where the family finances are becoming increasingly stretched, it is completely understandable that some people won’t be spending any money on their family members over the festive period and it could suggest that people don’t need to be materialistic to have a happy Christmas.

“With 0 per cent purchase and balance transfer deals, credit cards can offer a viable way for people to ensure they have a very merry Christmas but ensure the cost is spread out in a financially manageable way. And, if the card comes with a cashback offer, it could also help to offset some of that pre-Christmas expenditure.”

Notes to editors:

¹ All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,262 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 27th November 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

² The individual means were calculated based on those who have spent on each of the specified family member. The total mean was calculated using the base of all UK adults who spend on at least one family member.

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