The average Irish family spends €2,700 over the festive season, but what about the savers and splurgers? In the first part of a new series, a 40-year-old brand manager, earning €75k a year, itemises her extravagant Christmas spending
"I usually wait until the last possible minute to buy Christmas gifts and then engage in a Terminator-style shopping trip, wading forcibly through crowds brandishing my exploding fiscal fire hydrant as panicked shoppers look on.
"I tend to fire money at things to make up for the fact that I put little thought into the gifts, so I can be extravagant. People don’t tend to care how meaningful a present is when you gift them something fabulous. However, my family is quite small so it probably works out the same as someone buying for a gaggle of kids with a tech fetish.
"I think I spend more on my partner than most people as we have a tradition of overdoing it on the gift front to balance out how much we also relish a good festive row. I think my level of last-minute stress and overspending is directly related to the fact that I am not a fan of Christmas, in the same way that I’m not a fan of a crashing aeroplane.
What gifts I'm buying... and for how much
"This year, I will most likely be beatified as I am thinking of buying my partner a PlayStation (€369) as he’s never had one and I can’t watch him play games on a tiny phone screen anymore – it’s just not a good scene.
"My mother seems to spend the festive season fashioning a loaves and fishes miracle out of her old age pension and shows up with serious swag for myself and my partner.
"She has impeccable taste in men’s scarves. I know my partner quietly holds off buying a new scarf each year waiting for the mother-in-law to appear at the house like one of the Three Wise Fashionistas bearing a Paul Costello or Paul Smith scarf if he’s been a particularly good boy. He still raves about the year she produced a luxurious Francis Brennan terrycloth robe from Dunnes Stores which cost €80, and which he lovingly named 'The Wogan' (because of the terrycloth!). To be fair, I’ve tried it — it’s like wearing a hug from a kindly bear all day long.
"I usually splash out on my mother because she sets a stratospheric bar. I will spend anything up to €300 on her, usually on something lovely from a small boutique as she lives for 'style' as she calls it, or an antique brooch, or a stay in a spa hotel, which is basically just a gift for myself that involves her driving us there.
"My sister and I don’t usually bother buying each other gifts anymore, just tokens. Instead, we spend the money flying to each other’s respective cities and partying like Bacchus.
"I spend the most on my partner (about €400), as he is gifting nobility. He puts me to shame every year at our traditional Christmas Eve gift-giving session by producing thick, black ribboned Brown Thomas boxes housing multiple gifts he can’t afford and passes them out all night like the famous scene from The Lion King and then spends the rest of the season a fiscal pariah.
"I don’t have children of my own but I always send my godchild a 'few quid' (£150 to £200stg) or an Urban Outfitters voucher (same amount) — this tends to go down very well.
"I would usually spend up to €200 on my mother and father-in-law, and about €20 on my workplace Secret Santa. That’s usually a joke present like a fake Manchester United bedspread set, bought in Guiney’s for the diehard Liverpool bore in payroll.
In total, I spend about €800 to €1,000 on gifts.
What I spend on beauty and clothes
"Hair and beauty appointments set me back about €200-€300. I usually get Balayage and a cut done for Christmas, which costs in the region of €220, then at least two blowdries so I can look less corpse bride-like from all the boozing and late nights and feuding with family.
"I spend about €300 on clothes. I usually buy myself at least one smart dress from a label like Maje or Sandro in the pre-Christmas sales in Brown Thomas. Like Mrs Claus, you can never have enough red dresses you feel guilty about buying. This could cost anything up to €250 and I would spend the remaining €50-or-so on some quality costume jewellery (to turn my ears a holly green).
How much I spend on food and drink
"I spend about €250 on food and drink in a series of small shops. This is the one time of the year I would steer clear from the dreariness of Aldi and Lidl and do a good shop in M&S.
"I buy a lot of party good and confectionary and spend at least €150 on Prosecco, wine and vodka for parties and my alcohol-loving relatives. I just try not to think about how much toilet roll and ski suits and pneumatic drills I could have gotten in Lidl for the few sausage rolls, prawns pil pil and artery-clogging pâté and bread that cost me €150... 'Tis the season.
"The lead-up is the most expensive time with the conveyor belt of events and parties you are forced into (all the while perspiring audibly in too-small shoes).
"I spend about €1,000 on drinks and meals. There is usually the dreaded compulsory work meal and Christmas party, which can cost up to €60 for the basics and then another €60 on the ‘drinking to forget’ stage of the night because, once again, an inappropriate joke you made at the dinner table had limited appeal.
"When I go home to my hometown of Galway, my partner and I can spend anything up to €300 on meals and nights out, catching up with and avoiding people. We would spend quite a lot visiting family and friends in London — up to €400 over a three or four-day period, as you’re paying for everything to make up for the fact that you are in everyone’s way at a very fraught time.
As for travel and Christmas sales...
"I also fork out about €500 on travel costs visiting family overseas as it’s always last-minute by the time I get my act together to book flights and trains and cabs. I usually cover a lot of my partner’s travel expenses out of guilt, as he is basically my prisoner.
"I get paid about a week or more in advance which makes for an extremely lean mid-January, unlike my holiday waistline. I manage to get through until about 10 days before payday, at which point life starts to resemble the long journey of the crucifixion party up the hill of Calvary. And I don’t usually bother with the after-Christmas sales as I am financially bereft.
"I have definitely increased my spending exponentially in the last decade in-line with my salary, which is now €75k. There were years in my twenties I considered wrapping the cat. However, after totting up my total (€3,170) I understand now why it took me four decades to buy my own home and why I should get my boots reheeled..."
Photo: Sophie Teyssier
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