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Australia’s Christmas spending statistics – What will it cost you? 

Holiday Spending Statistics

How much money is spent on Christmas?

Christmas is an important time of year for Aussies. It’s a season that begins in November and stretches into the summer school holidays in January. There are Christmas parties and end-of-year celebrations, school concerts and family gatherings. The Christmas gift lists can be quite extensive too – office Secret Santas, teacher gifts and presents for family members ranging from your own children to great-aunties and second cousins. With all this comes a cost. For some people, spending money at Christmas on gifts and meals isn’t a problem. For others, Christmas shopping can range from stressful, to non-existent.

Early Christmas statistics predict Australians are expected to spend $63.9 billion in the pre-Christmas sales period (14 November to 24 December 2022). This is 3 per cent more than last year.

However, in 2022, we have seen rises to petrol, groceries, electricity bills, insurance premiums, rent, interest rates and more.

So, while those in the higher income bracket may be enjoying their Christmas shopping, this increased cost of living is predicted to impact Christmas spending in Australia for those on lower incomes.

Christmas statistics are a different story for lower income earners

Research conducted by Compare the Market (September 2022) of 1002 people showed 40 per cent of Australians believe they will spend less on Christmas this year than in the past.

Additionally, another research organisation, Advanis, found that 8 per cent of the 1000 Australian respondents to its survey ‘Festive Season Expectations Survey Research’ in August 2022 said they are dreading the festive season as they won’t be able to afford it.

In the lead up to Christmas 2021, The Salvation Army conducted a poll among people accessing its Doorways Emergency Relief services (Russell, C., Lensun, L., and Quan, L. (2021). The Salvation Army’s Christmas 2021 Poll. The Salvation Army: Australia). It found:

  • 83 per cent of households with children were worried they couldn’t afford presents for their children.
  • 61 per cent of households with children were concerned they could not afford a special meal on Christmas Day for the family.

This is where the Salvos and other charities try to step in with the help of donors to provide vouchers, food and toys so that more people can celebrate Christmas. Last Christmas, the Salvos supported people with:

  • Nearly 65,000 food hampers and vouchers.
  • More than 41,000 toys and gifts.

(1-31 December 2021, The Salvation Army, Christmas data summary report, July 2022.)

Partner with the Salvos to share the gift of hope this Christmas with people doing it tough.
Get involved

For those who can make some purchases, Advanis found out how many are reducing their costs in the lead up to Christmas to afford the expensive festivities ahead:

  • 22 per cent of Australian shoppers will buy fewer gifts this year than in 2021 – with the majority of these (65 per cent) doing so to save money.
  • 31 per cent plan to afford the festive season by cutting back on personal expenses such as eating out.

Christmas spending can lead to Christmas debt

Although many Australians are trying to find healthy ways to cut costs to afford their Christmas celebrations and gifts, Advanis found some are taking a riskier route:

  • 19 per cent of Australian shoppers plan to use a buy now pay later service to afford the festive season.
  • This jumps to 34 per cent in the Generation Z cohort.
  • 5 per cent plan to skip loan payments or bill payments. Five per cent also plan to open an additional credit card.
  • Both increase to 8 per cent among Millennials.

To some people, these payment options may not appear risky. But The Salvation Army’s financial counselling service - Moneycare, sees it differently. Buy now pay later services make it easier for you to spend more (by using money you don’t yet have). They also make some of their money by late fees, so if someone misses their repayment as they’ve overspent during the Christmas period, the high fees kick in. Skipping bill payments or taking on personal loans can quickly escalate a person’s level of debt, which can soon spiral out of control.

In August 2022, of people seeking support from Moneycare (The Salvation Army EMC data summary report, October 2022):

  • The average credit card debt was more than $14,000.
  • The average payday lender debt was nearly $3500.
  • The average buy now pay later debt was more than $2100.

“We now see people come to us that may have 10 or more buy now pay later products,” says Moneycare’s Kristen Hartnett. “People do what they need to do to survive and that includes accessing more credit. At some point, this load becomes too heavy and we are grateful that they reach out to us.

“People are increasingly comfortable accessing it (Buy now pay later loans), but we increasingly see it cause harm to people that connect with us. People often borrow to pay other debts; it becomes very cyclical.

Christmas in Australia – there is hope for holiday spending

If finances are tight for you this year when it comes to your Christmas shopping and other holiday spending, there is hope. Here are some practical tips from Moneycare’s eBook You’re the Boss to help ease your stress and reduce your debt.

  1. Avoid taking out buy now pay later loans or using credit cards. If you can’t afford the item with money in the bank, look for alternatives (see below).
  2. Buy quality second-hand gifts from Salvos Stores such as books or clothing, instead of expensive new items.
  3. Consider an experience or handmade gift that could be more affordable and personal.
  4. Who can you cross off your gift list? Do you have to buy your great-niece and second cousin an expensive gift they won’t even know they’ve received? Can you organise a ‘Secret Santa’ gift swap with colleagues or your family? Can you get together with others – all putting in a few dollars – to buy a more quality gift for someone such as a teacher, instead of spending lots of money on your own?
  5. Do you have to attend (and pay for) all the Christmas functions you’re invited to?
  6. Can you plan more affordable catchups and celebrations this Christmas? Consider a trip to the beach instead of a restaurant meal, or a lunch where everyone brings a dish rather than you as the sole provider of food.

If you’ve already overspent and are in debt, it’s not too late to take back control.

Read Moneycare’s free You’re the Boss eBook.

Have a confidential conversation with a financial counsellor on 1800 722 363

Christmas is meant to be a time of joy, celebration and hope. Learn more about the true meaning of Christmas – beyond the gifts, festive meals and financial stress – in the Bible or by visiting your local Salvos.

The Salvation Army Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and work and pay our respect to Elders past, present and future.

We value and include people of all cultures, languages, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and intersex status. We are committed to providing programs that are fully inclusive. We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of people of all ages, particularly children.

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The Salvation Army is an international movement. Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name with love and without discrimination.

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