Tips | December 5, 2018

Time, money and the environment: four hidden costs of Christmas

The holidays can be an expensive time of year with many costs you may not be aware of.


Christmas is drawing near and if you didn’t buy your gifts in the Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, you may still have a busy December ahead of you.

And perhaps an expensive December as well. Buying gifts can be a costly business, but you might be surprised by the other costs that festive periods bring.

At the risk of sounding like real Scrooges, here’s a list of everything else you might need to pay out to give the perfect gift.

The costs of Christmas:

  1. The perfect gift includes a card and fabulous wrapping paper, with costs to you and the environment
  2. Buying presents online? Shipping might make you spend more and import charges could catch you off guard
  3. Bringing the Christmas spirit home usually means buying a tree and plenty of decorations
  4. Hosting a party can be expensive – and there’s also time spent cooking, preparing, and cleaning up.

1. Cards, ribbons and wrapping paper
You may have bought an ideal present – or you had no ideas whatsoever and just bought something because you had to – but conventionally you wouldn’t hand it over in the bag it came in.

You would get some nice wrapping paper and ribbons and while they’re typically not very expensive, they do add an extra cost. And if you have some more extravagant tastes, even wrapping paper can come with quite the price tag.

There are also more environmentally friendly options out there, like reusable gift wrapping. In Japan, for instance, they use furoshiki, a wrapping cloth that was originally used by merchants to wrap their wares.

However, the cost is not just a burden on your wallet. The amount of wrapping that is used at Christmas has a significant impact on the environment, too.

In the UK alone, people throw away around 88 km2 of wrapping paper each year.

2. Convenient, but pricey shipping
A lot of online shops offer free shipping within the EU, but there are plenty that still don’t. And if a parcel is coming from outside the EU, you could get caught out by import tariffs and high shipping costs.

If you are the one sending a parcel outside the EU, you’ll want to make sure to tick the ‘gift’ box, so the person receiving the present won’t be charged the import fee.

The delivery cost can also make you spend more money. Let’s say you have £40 worth of goods in your basket, but if you buy for £50, you get free delivery.

We can easily be convinced to have another look at the other wares on offer to see if maybe we can’t buy something else to spend that extra £10, even if the delivery fee itself is cheaper.

3. Christmas trees and decorations
A real Christmas tree might bring a little bit more magic into the home, but the problem is you have to get a new one each year. An artificial one will save you money down the line because you’ll be able to use it for many years.

And then there are the decorations themselves. You can find some really expensive ornaments in shops and deciding to choose the cheaper ones might seem like a smart decision.

However, if you buy cheap ornaments, you may end up buying a few more each time you go into a shop, simply because they’re so cheap. In the end, you could be spending more than you initially intended.

In all fairness, though, this will come down to personal preference. Some people prefer to have lots of Christmas decorations, while others might like a more subtle vibe.

4. Food, drinks and waste If you love throwing amazing
Christmas parties, you know how much time and money they can cost. You need plenty of food and drinks to keep your guests happy.

But if you want to throw a party without breaking the bank, you could opt for a BYO (Bring Your Own) party.

Guests could bring a combination of their own drinks and snacks.

You may also want to consider being more frugal when buying food as much of it might get binned. There’s an odd desire for opulence at Christmas parties, but in truth, about 230,000 tonnes of food in the UK lands in a bin around Christmas.

Parties also come with a lot of waste. You may bring out plastic or paper cups and plates so nobody can turn your china into shards, but the environmental cost is high.

In the United States, households generate 25% more waste during the holiday season than during the rest of the year.

To reduce some of the waste, try to put leftover food into containers and hand them over to your guests. You could also place a recycling bin next to your waste bin to make it easier for people to recycle, rather than dumping everything in the waste bin.

Want more Christmas-y goodness? Have a look at our twelve tips for Christmas from last year or find out if you should just give a gift card if you can’t find a good present.

eZonomics team
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