‘There have been multiple surveys carried out at home and abroad over many years which suggest that Irish people typically spend at least twice the EU average on having themselves a merry little Christmas.’ Photograph: Carsten Koall/Getty
Every year for donkey’s years, Pricewatch has totted up the 12 costs of Christmas to work out how much a typical Irish household is likely to spend over the course of the season.
The short answer has always been loads. When it comes to Christmas spending – in good times and in bad – we have never been found wanting. There have been multiple surveys carried out at home and abroad over many years which suggest that Irish people typically spend at least twice the EU average on having themselves a merry little Christmas.
Our Dutch cousins meanwhile manage to get through Christmas with their finances largely intact, although they celebrate Sinterklaas today, and a good deal of their festive spending is probably diverted to what is a distinctly odd day, as least for us.
One of the things that has always been striking about our totting up exercise – apart from how much we typically spend – is how little the costs have changed from year to year. When we tot up the price of the food and the fun the dial has rarely moved all that much. Last year we estimated spending at about €1,800 when everything was added to the mix.
This year we approached our homework with trepidation, aware that Christmas 2022 is unlikely to have dodged the impact of the cost of living crisis which has hit so many aspects of all our lives over the last 12 months.
1. The food
We all know that Christmas is the season to eat all around you and shop like you are heading into some class of nuclear winter. We also know that Irish people are not great food shoppers at the best of times – which is why we bin between €700 and €1,000 of the food we buy each year. We also know that at Christmas time, many of us lose the run of ourselves in our supermarkets. Part of the reason is that many Irish adults remember a time when shops used to close on Christmas Eve and stayed shut until the 28th at the earliest. That doesn’t happen any more of course and some shops will be open on Christmas Day, while many others will open on St Stephen’s Day. But old habits die hard. The other reason food shopping at Christmas is so expensive is that we set ourselves very high expectations about having the perfect feast, and eat so much food. Many Irish people will make their way through 6,000 calories on the big day which could be three times what we normally eat.
All those calories come at a cost to our waists and our wallets. And what is that cost and what was it last year? In early December 2021 we went virtual shopping for items normally eaten on Christmas Day and priced a turkey, ham, biscuits, mince pies, melon, plum pudding, breakfast stuff, vegetables and a few other Christmas Day essentials. We didn’t add anything outlandish to our basket and there were no really high-end products either. We also confined our spending to a large supermarket chain.
The cost of our items – enough to feed a family of four comfortably on the big day with leftovers for grazing on St Stephen’s Day, and maybe a day or two after that – came to a fairly hefty €156.45. We added another €150 to cover food on the days before and after Christmas, which took our total food bill to €306.45.
This was our shopping list for Christmas Day 2022. Obviously not everyone will eat the same things, but it will at least give you an idea of how the costs stack up.
So the spending on Christmas Day came in at €233.75. If we added €150 to cover the food for the rest of the Christmas period last year and food price inflation is currently running at about 10 per cent, the extra shopping is likely to cost €165 this year which will take the total cost of food to a fairly eye-watering €398.75.
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2. The drink
Christmas tends to be a time when many people let their hair down when it comes to booze. Christmas Day might well be the only day of the year when it is socially acceptable to lorry into the champagne in the dawn’s early light, as if by adding a splash of orange juice to the glass makes it a wholesome breakfast drink.
But for the sake of this exercise we are not going to do the dog on it and will buy exactly what we bought last Christmas – when our total bill for alcohol for a merry Christmas came in at €261.
This year we limited ourselves to a case of beer, Peroni as it happens (€22); eight cans of stout (€15); four bottles of red wine ranging in price from €12 to €15; two bottles of champagne – but nothing fancy – (€20); a bottle of whiskey to make Irish coffees and maybe douse the plum pudding (€31), and then a bottle of gin (€30). The bill came to €192.
Christmas tends to be a time when many people let their hair down when it comes to booze. Photograph: Bryan O Brien
Some households will spend more, some will spend less. We are not going to stand in judgment on any of them! But we are not done with the drinking just yet. If the two adults in our imaginary house make it to the pub just twice over the Christmas period and have four pints of Heineken each (or the equivalent of other tipples) on both occasions, then the bill for alcohol climbs to a pretty headache-inducing €288.
3. The tree
We are going to assume that you are buying a real Christmas Tree because – we think – you are a good and decent person who loves Christmas. How much you spend will very much depend on the size of your house, your personal tastes and the time you buy it. You can find a tree selling in Ikea for €29 but – at least in our experience – they do tend to be a little underwhelming. You could also wait until Christmas Eve to get your tree and snag a real bargain but we’d have to ask WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. So if you buy a normal-sized tree at a normal time of the month, then you will probably spend anywhere from €50 to €100 on it – so we will split the difference and allow €75 for the tree and another €25 for a festive wreath.
4. The decorations
If this is not your first rodeo-ho-ho, there is a pretty good chance you have some decorations already. Once you have detangled the lights, found all the baubles and the tinsel and the other things that we festoon our homes with, you might find yourself in the market for some top-ups. The good news is that Woodies has a half-price sale on Christmas decorations on right now so you might be able to get everything you need on the cheap. We will allow €50 for decorations – which is the same as last year.
5. The ‘Christmas party’
There is a chance you have forgotten all about the notion of the Christmas party, what with the dramatic curtailment of organised fun both last year and in 2020. But with the passing of the pandemic and Ireland about to celebrate its first completely restriction-free Christmas since 2019, chances are many people and companies will be pushing the boat out in a big way this year. Hopefully your employer will pick up the tab for a decent chunk of the party, but you will probably need to get a taxi home and maybe a couple of drinks before and after the hooley starts. How much you spend will very much depend on where the party is, where you live in relation to it, and how much booze you get through before the party starts. Costs might climb alarmingly if you find yourself in an expensive round system at some point in the evening, or start downing Jaegerbombs or Tequila slammers at two in the morning. Top tip… don’t do that. It never ends well. We are going to allow €100 for the party in any event.
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6. The toys
Obviously Santa Claus makes all the children’s presents, so no adult has to worry about that. But if parents want to supplement the work of Santa they might want to buy some additional presents while also buying presents for all the other people in the family. Typically, Irish households are likely to spend anywhere between €300 and €500 on gifts this year. In a great many homes this year the amount spent will be a lot less than that, while in other homes, the level of spending on presents will climb much higher. For the sake of this article – and so we can’t be accused of exaggerating the spending – we will only allow €300 for presents for everyone in our fictitious family of four.
Will we go to a pantomime? Oh no we won’t. Oh yes we will. And how much will it cost? We priced tickets to the Jungle Book in the Gaiety and the cheapest seat we could find came in at €32. The cost for four people then would be €128. But we have to go and see Santa. How much that costs depends on many factors. Some places charge for both adults and children to see Santa – a practice we think is, frankly, ridiculous. If you want to make Pricewatch pay 15 quid for a ticket to see the big man on top of the 25 quid you are charging for the children’s tickets, don’t be surprised if we sit on his lap and demand a present too. Anyways, we digress. We priced tickets to the Santa experience at Dundrum Town Centre – a place that does not make adults pay. Tickets cost €25 per child. If we add €50 to the €128 the pantomime visit is costing us plus €50 for treats in both places along the way, we must add another €228 to our festive bill.
8. The pyjamas
Obviously there will have to be new pyjamas because it is Christmas. How much they cost will of course depend on where they are bought. We are nothing if not economical, so we went to Penney’s. The price of festive pyjamas do vary, but we reckon two children’s pairs and two adult pairs – if we must wear them they may as well be matching – would cost €50.
9. Christmas clothes and grooming
Many of us did not have to spend any money on new clothes last year or in 2020, but it might be a different story this Christmas. We are not going to lose the run of ourselves and will all our adults to spend no more than €50 each on frocks and shirts and the like, and limit the spending for the littler members of our fictitious family to just €30. We are told that hairdressers are quite busy in the run-up to Christmas, and many people do like to visit such places. There is a huge discrepancy between the costs for men, women and children, but we reckon we’d not be a million miles away from an accurate figure if we suggested that the total cost of professional grooming for four people is €200, taking the total cost of making our family look presentable as they go about the place over Christmas to a pretty savage €360.
Many of us did not have to spend any money on new clothes last year or in 2020, but it might be a different story this Christmas. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Energy usage in Ireland peaks over Christmas and as we are all so painfully aware, the cost of that energy has gone through the roof over the last 12 months. This time last year we estimated that the increased cost of energy once the turkeys were cooked, the dishes done, the Christmas trees illuminated, the homes heated and all the films watched would cost us €50. This Christmas we are going to double that and allow €100 for energy consumption.
If you plan on driving anywhere for Christmas you will have to pay for it. If you drive from Dublin to Cork and then back again you will cover around 450km, a distance that will cost you at least €100 in fuel. Every 16km more you travel over the 12 days of Christmas will set you back another €2, but we will cap our travel costs at €100.
This is going to be a very tough Christmas for a great many people all over Ireland. The cost of living crisis disproportionately impacts people on lower incomes – and never harder than over Christmas. Parents will put themselves under enormous pressure to ensure their children have the happiest of times – often going without themselves as a result. Charities such as St Vincent de Paul have reported record numbers reaching out to them for support, and there will be a great many others making contact with the charity and others this season. Then there are all the people in other countries who are struggling like never before as a result of conflicts and crises.
Parents will put themselves under enormous pressure to ensure their children have the happiest of times – often going without themselves as a result. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
We know that Irish people like to give at Christmas. More than 8 out of 10 Irish adults plan to make a donation to charity over the Christmas period according to a survey released last week by the Charities Regulator. It showed that 86 per cent of Irish adults will definitely or probably make a charitable donation of money, time or goods during December. The survey also found a significant disparity in the attitudes of men and women towards charitable giving over the Christmas period. Men represented 62 per cent of those who don’t intend to make a charitable donation over Christmas, while women made up 38 per cent of this group. The study also showed that 57 per cent of women are committed charity donors compared to 43 per cent of men. This time last year when we were drawing up our costs, we allowed €100 for charity. This year – at least for those who can afford it, and a huge number of people will not be so fortunate – we will up that to €200.
And there we have it, the 12 costs of Christmas. But what is the final tally? Are you sitting down? Maybe you should make yourself comfortable because the cost of this Christmas – one which we do not believe is wildly exaggerated – comes in at €2,274.75, some ways ahead of last year’s figure.
We know many people will look at that figure in disbelief and say it can’t be right, and we know that many others will look at it in despair and say they just can’t afford it, but it will be a reality for a great many people in the days and weeks ahead.
© 2022 The Irish Times DAC
© 2022 The Irish Times DAC