It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – but will you still be paying for it in March?

21 November 2016

  • Average person spends roughly half their monthly pay on Christmas
  • One in three pay for christmas on credit card or overdraft
  • One in five take three months or more to pay off christmas debt

Food, booze, presents and all those relatives descending – it’s easy to see how the extra costs associated with Christmas soon mount up. But are we overstretching more than just our waistbands in the quest for that perfect festive experience?

Nationwide’s Christmas Spending Report, which looks into how the nation finances the big day, reveals many Brits are left in the red months after the decorations come down.

Let the bills ring out for Christmas
The Nationwide report shows the average Brit will spend almost half (44%) of their monthly salary on Christmas, while one in fifteen (6%) spend in excess of a month’s salary. In terms of the amount spent, the average is £646, equating to a staggering £33 billion nationally every year1. However, one in five people (20%) admit to splashing out more than £1,000 ahead of the big day. This leaves a fifth of Brits (19%) suffering financially for three months or more, and one in three (37%) regretting the amount they have spent over Christmas.

Because it’s the time of year when cash flow is most often stretched, for almost a third (30%), the cost of good cheer is in some part carried by debt, as 21 per cent put the expense on their credit cards and one in ten (9%) rely on their overdraft. While a third (30%) pay off the debt within a month, one in seven (15%) take up to three months and one in fifty takes a year or longer to clear the cost. All that financial pressure leads to 14 per cent of Brits arguing about the cost of Christmas with their partners.

Santa Claus is coming to town, but most of us are not
Many Brits avoid the high street, instead favouring online shopping. Just over half (55%) now buy the majority of their gifts online. In fact, less than a third (30%) still get most of their presents in high street chains, 6 per cent mostly use independent retailers and 4 per cent make their gift selections at the supermarket.

We’re a canny lot too, with three quarters (73%) shopping around, a third (34%) using vouchers or loyalty points (28%), and around a quarter (23%) taking advantage of deal or sale days such as Black Friday. A very well prepared one in ten (11%) admit to doing the majority of their Christmas spending in the January sales – 11 months ahead.

Nationwide’s Head of Current Accounts, Phil Smith, comments; “While it’s great to treat loved ones over the Christmas period, it’s always worth considering how best to ensure your spending remains manageable. Try to make the most of your festive budget by saving a little towards the extra costs in advance, spreading your purchases throughout the year and making the most of deals, vouchers and loyalty points. Mobile and internet banking can help keep you informed and in control of your finances, even on the go. Arranging an overdraft in advance can save on fees and if your spending still outstretches what’s in your wallet, look for a 0% credit card to spread the costs throughout the year.”

The Ghost of Christmas Present
While the average amount spent on presents for a partner or spouse is £117, one in ten splash out more than £200. However, a more frugal one in ten (9%) women and 3 per cent of men spend less than £25 on their loved one. Add to that the £9,sup>2, the average person spends on gift wrapping, more than £81 spent on the family Christmas dinner, £12 on decorations, and almost £10 each for cards and crackers, it’s easy to see how the spending soon mounts up.

On average, Brits buy a total of 15 gifts each year, though one in ten (10%) buy more than 30. Unsurprisingly we spend most on children – an average of £145, though one in twenty parents spend in excess of £400. Parents and in-laws receive gifts worth an average of £52, grandparents £31 and friends £34. The family pet merits an average spend just under £22.

Yet, of those who receive presents, almost one in five (18%) return between one and three unwanted gifts to the retailer for refund or exchange.

Home Alone
In stark contrast with all these festivities, one in fifty of those surveyed (2%) said they didn’t spend anything on Christmas, 3 per cent catered only for themselves for Christmas lunch and one in 20 (5%) never actually receive any gifts.

Notes to Editor:

OnePoll surveyed 2000 UK adults who celebrate Christmas between 4-9 November 2016

1, £33,635,076,420 spent across UK based on £645.81 average spend multiplied by 52,082,000 (UK adult population according to 2011 census)

2, Average spend on –
Xmas wrapping items - £8.73
Xmas decorations £11.96
Xmas crackers £9.22
Xmas cards £9.31

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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