The 12 costs of Christmas, and 12 ways to spend smarter

Pricewatch: Research suggests we are near the top of the international spending charts at Christmas

Last week we came across an international money-transfer site which outlined how much countries around the world are likely to spend on Christmas this year and while the site did not include dear old Ireland it still made for interesting reading.

Christmas appears to be dearest in Canada, where households are set to spend €1,622, while it is cheapest in Uganda, where the big day will set households back just €61.

Now, obviously comparing the cost of Christmas in Canada and Uganda is not as straightforward as a single number, which is why the site also looked at the cost as a percentage of median annual income.

The people of Uganda will spend just 0.7 per cent of their annual income on Christmas, while Canadians will spend just over 3 per cent of their yearly household income on the season to spend lolly.


In Australia the season in the sun will cost €1,122, while in the United States the spend is €1,138 and Christmas is likely to set our closest neighbours in the UK back €984. The Dutch – as is their wont – will get by on a lot less than the well-heeled world average by spending a fairly miserly €621.

But what about us? There is all manner of research suggesting how much Irish people will spend on Christmas but the numbers are frequently wildly out of sync. Last year the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) carried out a survey which suggested the average spend here was about €1,200 – a figure which would place us near the top of the international spending charts.

A survey published by Penneys earlier this month, however, put the cost of presents alone at €582 – which would leave just €600 or so for absolutely everything else if that amount was to tally with the CCPC study.

A separate survey from KPMG suggested the average Christmas food shop here costs €254.70, with the average cost of gifts put at €407.40.

Whatever about the actual prices, another report – this time from the Irish League of Credit Unions, pointed to climbing prices, with its assessment putting the cost of Christmas at 4 per cent higher this year compared with last year, which was 6 per cent higher than 2021.

Now, while Pricewatch does not like to question the figures from the likes of the CCPC, Penneys and KPMG, we are going to do it anyway with our – by now annual – 12 costs of Christmas.

We have crunched the numbers and reckon the actual money likely to be spent by Irish households in the weeks ahead of us would handily place us at the top of the international spending charts.

1: Food

The cost of food in Irish supermarkets has climbed dramatically over the last two years and while inflation has fallen back to just under 10 per cent according to the most recent figures from retail analysts Kantar, a 10 per cent jump in the price of Christmas food is still pretty savage.

Despite the higher prices there is no sign people will temper their spending to any great degree and they are likely to still pile their shopping trolleys high two or three days before the big day as the madness of crowds kicks in.

Cost-of-living crisis or no cost of living crisis, Irish adults will still consume about 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone, with all those calories coming at a cost – and we’re not talking about your waistline.

So what is that cost?

We filled a virtual shopping trolley made up of a turkey, ham, mince pies, breakfast material, melon, plum pudding and a few other Christmas Day essentials – including tins of biscuits and chocolates and the like.

And just like Santa, we made a list.

· Turkey: €40

· Ham: €17

· Afternoon Tea biscuits: €14

· Mince pies (12): €7

· Christmas pudding: €10

· Two melons: €4.60

· Sausages: €5.98

· Bacon: €5

· Eggs: €3.85

· Bread: €2.09

· Orange juice €4.98

· Assorted vegetables: €15

· Stuffing: €7.20

· Sausage rolls: €10

· Parma ham €5.50

· Smoked salmon: €15

· Spiced beef: €20.79

· Party food: €20

· Cheese board and crackers: €20

· Crisps and nuts: €20

· Creams and other dairy products: €10

· Condiments: €10

· Soft drinks: €20

· Crackers: €10

· Fancy napkins and the like: €10

Now this list might not exactly match your list – but we don’t think we went mad with our shopping and priced all the products at the most mainstream of supermarkets, so it’s not like we’re doing our shopping somewhere really fancy. We did, however, eschew the value ranges for the day that is in it and went for many of the premium products on the shelves.

The cost of our basket of 25 items, which is more than sufficient to feed a family of two adults and three children on the day itself, with some leftovers, came to €349.39.

Add another €140 for food over the period between December 23rd and December 31st and the grocery bill comes in at €489.

And there’s not a drop taken yet.

2: Booze

If Christmas stretches from the night of December 22nd (which is a Friday) to the night of January 1st, that is 11 nights. Now, how much alcohol you lorry into depends entirely on yourself. There will be many people who won’t take a drop and many others who will take quite a few drops. For the purposes of this exercise we will fall in the middle. A case of 20 bottles of beer (€20), four bottles of red wine (€60), four bottles of white (€60), two bottles of the cheapest champagne we could find in a big supermarket (€64), a small bottle of brandy for lighting plum puddings and drinking (€14.90) and one bottle of whiskey (€32.50).

That comes in at about 120 units of alcohol which, if spread out over 11 days for two adults, works out at 5.5 units per person per day over the course of the holiday season, with the bill coming in at €251.40.

Now, if our adults go to a pub just twice over the Christmas period and have four drinks each on each occasion the bill for booze would hit €363.40.

3: The office party

For many people the work Christmas do is a fun – or not so fun – feature of the season and, if you’re lucky, your place of employment might pick up at least some of the tab. But it is unlikely to cover the entire cost, so we are going to allow €20 for a taxi to take you home from the big night out and €40 more for the round you might buy after the free drink stops flowing. If both the adults in our fictional house have a party to go to, the cost will come in at €120.

4: The tree

The cost of a real tree varies wildly depending on where you buy it and how big it is but we will set aside €70 for a decent tree that won’t shed sad pines all over your floor before Santa has started the engines on his sleigh.

5: Decorations

Some good news – as long as you’re not starting from scratch and don’t buy your decorations in the priciest of places we reckon you could handily spend just €20 on refreshing your decorations from last year. And, yes, by refreshing we do mean replacing a tangled set of lights in a fury as you curse yourself for not being more careful when you were putting them away last year.

6: Presents

As we have said many times before, we are fortunate to have Santa Claus in our world as he takes the sting out of the price of presents for children. But on the off chance that parents want to supplement the presents the big man delivers, they might end up spending €200 per child, which comes in at €600 for our family with three young folk in it. We will allow a further €100 per adult in the house, which takes the total cost of presents to a fairly hefty €800. Anyone buying for parents, siblings or friends will have to spend more. How much more very much depends on how much you like your friends and extended family.

7: Santa Claus

The cost of visiting Santa Claus really does depend on where you go but at Dublin’s Liffey Valley the price this year is €15 per child. Cinderella is on at the Gaiety this year, with tickets from €21.50, and if you add a visit for a family of five to the ice-skating rink in Blanchardstown the price is €78.50. That will take the total cost of these fairly normal festive treats to €231. Add some hot chocolates and maybe the odd biscuit and you won’t have any change out of €300.

8: Christmas cards

If you buy and send 50 cards we must congratulate you on having so many friends and being so considerate to them. The cards themselves will cost about a tenner, while the cost of sending 50 is €67.50, taking the total to €67.50.

9: Christmas clobber

Buying a new dress or a new shirt or a Christmas jumper might cost each adult €50 (in truth it will probably cost a whole lot more but we are being mean). Children might also be in the market for new clothes, both to sleep in and to wear when out praying or playing, and we reckon many families of five will be doing well to spend less than €200 in total.

10: Transport

If you want to visit relatives, either down the country or in the city, you’ll need to get there. A trip from Dublin to Cork and back will cost you about €70 in fuel.

11: Power

The average monthly winter gas and electricity bill could now be as much as €400. More gas is spent cooking and heating over the festive period and more oil is burned keeping the Santa on your roof illuminated, so we are going to add €100 for Christmas-related energy costs.

12: Charity

This will be a hard Christmas for many in Ireland and in other places in the world torn apart by conflict. Charities such as St Vincent de Paul, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Goal and Concern – to name just four – will need help this year. Irish people like to give, so we are going to set aside just €100 for charitable donations.

Now, are you sitting down? Hopefully you are because the Pricewatch total household spend for what looks like a fairly standard Irish Christmas is an eye-wateringly expensive €2,699.99, which is about €700 more than when we carried out a similar exercise a decade ago.

The 12 cuts of Christmas

1: Be realistic with your food shopping and don’t go wild. Spend an hour or so before you hit the shops making a realistic list and then stick to it. Or shop online – you can see the amount you are about to spend in real time and can check what you need and don’t need as you go.

2: Do not leave your present buying until the last minute. If you haven’t started already, do so this week. You will save yourself stress and cash.

3: Shop offpeak. Early in the morning when you need to go in search of presents. It is calmer and faster.

4: If at all possible do not to use your credit card. Far too often we go into significant debt because of Christmas and many people will still be dealing with the financial hangover next June.

5: Make a list of all those you have to buy for and draw up a budget. Buy the most expensive, most important presents first.

6: Don’t go mad on the gifts. Agree a spending limit with friends and family and stick to it.

7: Secret Santa is your friend. Much better – and cheaper – to buy one lovely present for €100 than 10 rubbish presents for €15 each.

8: If you have a present in mind, shop around and compare prices – both in store and online.

9: The German discounters are worth a visit if you are strangers to their charms. Shop wisely and you could easily knock a decent chunk off your grocery spend.

10: Call into a charity shop when out looking for gifts. We’re not suggesting you give your loved ones a pair of second-hand shoes from the 1970s, but you never know what cool things you might be able to get for less. It’s environmentally friendly too.

11: Make stuffings and soups now. It will take a bit of the sting out of the big Christmas shop and take a bit of the hassle out of it, too.

12: Lower your expectations a bit. Yes, we know this sounds a bit miserable but that is not our intention. The truth is we are constantly being told the perfect Christmas exists. But it doesn’t.