The number of Britons who say they can’t afford to have the Christmas they want has doubled since last year
With presents to buy, socialising to do and food and drink to indulge in, the average Briton will spend £642 on Christmas this year – but many will face going into debt as a result.
People will spend hundreds on gifts, food, socialising and travel this festive season, with nearly four in ten (38%) anticipating turning to credit or borrowing to fund their Christmas spend.
According to YouGov’s annual Christmas spending tracker, the biggest expense for Britons this year will typically be on presents and gifts (a median figure of £300), followed by food and drink (£100) and socialising (£100).
Annual expenditure is largely unchanged compared to 2021, when the average person said they’d spend £670, though Britons say they’ll spend less on hotel stays this year — from a median figure of £70 to £42. (The overall expenditure figures for this year and last year are the sum of the median expected expenditures on each of the six categories; an earlier article based on last year’s survey arrived at a higher figure of total spend because it used the methodology of mean expenditures.)
Stark rise in the number of Britons unable to afford the Christmas they want
In the face of a pervasive cost of living crisis, more than four in ten people (42%) insist they’ll do whatever they can to have the Christmas they want this year.
But a quarter of Britons (25%) say they’re unable to have the celebration they’d like because they can’t afford it – twice as many as said the same in 2021 (12%).
The cost of Christmas is not just counted in pounds and pence
Most people (54%) agree that Christmas gets more difficult to afford every year, including 15% in strong agreement. That’s significantly up from the 36% who agreed last year.
And for many, the cost of Christmas takes its toll not just on the wallet, with 38% of Britons saying the cost makes the occasion “too stressful” (a rise from 27% last year) while 25% say they struggle to enjoy the occasion because they’re worried about how much they’re spending (up from 16% in 2021).
An increasing number of Britons are struggling to pay their bills – and many expect to see debts increase over Christmas
That Britons are feeling stressed about the cost of the festive season is perhaps unsurprising given more than half (54%) say they’re already falling behind or struggling to keep up with bills and credit commitments, up from 41% last year.
To ensure the impact of Christmas is not as stressful, 34% of people say they save throughout the year to afford gifts, while an additional 41% will dip into existing savings pots to pay for presents.
But 42% think they’ll spend more than they should this festive season, with many expecting to fall further into debt as a result.
More than one in five Britons (22%) expect their debts to increase over Christmas. That’s up from 14% who expected debts to increase because of Christmas last year.
Among those who are already financially distressed (those struggling to keep up with financial commitments or worried they’ll fall behind), the figure is higher at 37%, including 21% who say their level of debt will increase significantly.
And the majority (61%) of the 8% of Britons who are already over-indebted (those who have been three months or more behind on their bills/financial commitments in the past six months) believe their debt will worsen because of Christmas.
One in 11 Britons will avoid paying off debts to fund Christmas
Despite the likelihood of debts increasing over the festive season for many Britons, one in 11 (9%) say they’ll avoid paying all or some of their debts to fund Christmas.
And the proportion of people who say they’ll turn to credit or borrowing to afford presents and gifts has grown since last year, with 18% saying they’ll use credit cards (15% in 2021), 7% who’ll pay presents off with instalment schemes like Klarna or Clearpay (5%), 3% who’ll use store cards and 3% catalogue credit (2% and 2% respectively last year).
The proportion of Britons planning to take out payday loans has not changed, with 1% saying they’ll do so, the same amount as say they’ll borrow from friends or family (1%).
Looking at gift shopping specifically, the proportion of Britons who will use some form of borrowing or credit is highest among those already struggling financially.
Those who are financially distressed or over-indebted, for example, are far more likely to rely on instalment schemes at 12% and 24% respectively, compared to 7% of all Britons.
Generally, the biggest proportion of Britons say they’ll be funding their present buying with savings – 41% of all Britons say they will dip into existing savings pots while 34% have saved up specifically for Christmas.
This falls to 35% for those struggling with financial commitments or worried they’re going to fall behind and to 19% for those who have been three months behind or more on their bills in the last six months.
Most Britons say cancelling Christmas is not an option
Despite the impact of the cost of living crisis and the financial struggle many families are facing, nearly seven in ten people (68%) maintain cancelling Christmas is not an option for them, up from 60% last year.
A quarter of people (25%) say they’re normally cautious with their finances but will spend what they want at Christmas, with 26% of Britons saying it’s the only time of the year they treat their family to what they want.
And more than one in five Britons (22%) say Christmas is the time of year they stop worrying about their finances and focus on enjoying themselves instead, with a third (33%) saying seeing others enjoy the festivities is worth any added stress.