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How much should I spend on Christmas presents?

When it comes to Christmas, there are so many costs to think about - so, how much is too much to spend on presents?
presents under the tree | wealthify.com
Reading time: 3 mins

At this time of year, it’s normal to start wondering – how much does the average family spend on Christmas presents? Well, if you’re intrigued, then this article is just for you.

However, before diving too much into the specifics of presents, it may be worth reading a quick summary of how much Christmas costs the average family.

That way you can have a better understanding of how much, or how little, your Christmas costs you compared to others – and whether you’re guilty of spoiling your loved ones.

And we know, we know. How many Christmas films and stories have told us that this holiday isn't all about spending money and having presents?

But do we believe that this season doesn’t have to be used to justify frivolous spending – especially with the high cost of living – and there’s no shame in spending the bare minimum or going without presents entirely.

The most important spending this season is the time spent with your loved ones.

How much does the average family spend on Christmas?

According to YouGov's most recent Christmas spending tracker1, in 2022, the average person in the UK spent £6421 on the festive season, with gifts being the largest expense at around £300 in total.

But celebrating Christmas isn’t always about the gifts. In fact, people also spend a significant amount of money on food and alcohol during this time, with YouGov putting this amount at around £100 per person. However, alcohol is often bought as a present – which could mean that this cost straddles the categories of ‘presents’ and ‘booze’.

The tracker also found that for Christmas last year, we typically spend £100 on social events, £50 on new clothes, £50 on travel and £42 on hotel stays.

Needless to say, we love feeling festive and celebrating that feeling with our purses and wallets!

But one thing to bear in mind is that this research was carried out and published at the start of December 2022. And due to costs of things like groceries continuing to increase in 2023, you could find that you may need to part with more cash if you don't want to cut back on the festivities.

And a recent IPA Insight report indicates that Brits are feeling the pressure, with 64%2 saying they'll be cutting back their spending compared to last Christmas.

Sticking to your Christmas budget

Normally, at Christmas, the only thing you want to be sticky is your sticky toffee pudding  but keeping to your budget can feel almost as good. So, what are some things that you could do to set a realistic budget and try to make sure you stick to it? Here are some ideas:

  • Plan ahead – you know Christmas is coming; it happens on the 25th of December every year without fail. So, why not prepare for it? Start saving bits here and there, buy presents throughout the year, and try and get ahead of the December rush.
  • Look for deals – if you’re buying presents throughout the year then you can keep your eyes peeled for deals, whether that’s discounted prices, buy one get one free offers, or even free shipping! Being smart with your purchases could get you the same things for less.
  • Track your money – overspending is a lot easier to do when you don’t know how much you’ve already spent. Keeping tabs on your money can help you realise when you’re coming close to your budget and enable you to make plans.

Looking at alternative gifts

One of the biggest issues with presents is the clutter they can create. After all, it can feel like the whole period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve is spent trying to find a place for all the new stuff you and your little ones have.

We’re not always the best gift-givers either. Not that we're ungrateful or anything, but research from Finder3 shows that over 32 million of us will receive at least one gift we don't want each Christmas. And the average cost of each unwanted present isn't cheap either, coming in at £37.

And what about the environmental impact of this?

Well, not only did Finder's research show that 6.13% throw them away, but it's also said that typically, around 30% more waste4 is generated during the festive season compared to the rest of the year. And when you stop to think about all the food that's leftover from your Christmas dinner, all the wrapping paper you use, and the cards you send and receive in the post, this fact probably isn't that surprising.

If you want to break this trend and are looking for ways to save money and/or reduce the amount of waste or excess you have, then it may be worth looking at alternative gifts.

Here are a few suggestions:

Ask people what they need

There are many expensive events in a person’s life – going to university, buying a property or having a child are just a few examples. And with the cost of living creeping up faster than wages for many of us, your loved ones will probably appreciate you gifting them something that will help them out with these expenses.

For example, if your friend has recently moved out for the first time, it’s worth asking them if there’s anything they need for their home that you could get them as a present – such as a cutlery set or bedding. Or if they’re expecting a baby, you could even offer to contribute to the cost of pricey items that they’ll need to buy, such as a cot or pram.

So, although it may ruin the surprise element (and let’s face it, cutlery is nowhere near as exciting as a new pair of trainers), giving a gift that’s needed will bring far more value and won’t sit gathering dust in a few months when something else is in fashion.

Buy second-hand

We already mentioned that a lot of Christmas presents go unwanted. So, just think of how many gifts are also generated from other occasions that could end up going to waste – such as birthdays and weddings, or when you leave a job and your co-workers all chip in to get you a little something to say goodbye.

Fortunately, though, these presents don’t always get thrown in the bin without a second thought. The Finder survey also revealed that 22.50% of people who receive presents they dislike regift them, 21.87% donate them, and 11.31% sell them. With that in mind, charity shops, markets and car boot sales can all be great places to find gifts that haven’t been used – and sometimes for a cheaper price too, which is ideal if you’re on a tight budget this year.

And if you’d rather do your shopping online, then try places like Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Depop to see what treasures you could snap up.

Gift experiences

If you want a waste-free Christmas gift for a loved one, remember that you don’t necessarily need to give them a physical item. Why not get a little creative and instead of buying them something that they will like and appreciate (but may not necessarily need) think about giving them an experience that you can enjoy together – such as a spa day, a meal at a fancy restaurant, a theatre trip, or if you want to pull out all the stops, an overnight stay or a weekend break somewhere.

Of course, going down this route does come with the added benefit that you’ll also get to enjoy their present yourself, which is always nice – but don’t let that sway your decision of what to get them as this should be something that they’ll actually enjoy!

However, gifting experiences could also help to reduce the amount of waste that will end up in landfill this Christmas – just think of all the wrapping and packaging you could avoid throwing in the bin. Not only that, but this gift could end up being far more meaningful as you’ll remember the experience you shared for many years to come.

We think this famous quote from Jean Chatzky (an American finance journalist) sums this up rather nicely: “Buy experiences, not things. Spending on experiences makes people happier than spending on things. Things get broken and go out of style. Experiences get better every time you talk about them.”

So, if you want to avoid wasteful gifting this Christmas, it doesn’t need to be complicated. There are plenty of options for zero waste gifts that don’t break the bank and can be more meaningful than gifting physical presents that will be broken or forgotten about by next Christmas.


  1. https://yougov.co.uk/society/articles/44768-how-much-are-people-spending-christmas-2022
  2. https://ipa.co.uk/news/christmas-amidst-the-crunch-2
  3. https://www.finder.com/uk/unwanted-gifts
  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/24-ways-to-waste-not-this-christmas

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