Christmas is traditionally a time for giving, but new research reveals it might be worth thinking twice before splashing your cash on gifts, as spending big doesn't necessarily lead to gift satisfaction.
According to the ING International Survey Special Report - Christmas 2016, which asked 13,500 people in Europe, the USA and Australia about their finances at Christmas, nearly one in seven (15%) people in Europe who received a gift last year had at least one they didn't want, didn't appreciate or couldn't use. A further eight per cent couldn't even remember whether they liked the gifts they received.
This is the equivalent of at least 81 million unwanted gifts, at an estimated €45 each.
Across Europe, people in the United Kingdom were the least likely to appreciate or remember if they liked their gifts (29%), closely followed by those in Italy (28%) and Romania (27%), though people in theCzech Republic were the most likely to forget how they felt about their presents altogether.
Driving into debt for Christmas
While an estimated €3.7 billion was effectively wasted on unappreciated presents last year, one in 10 (10%) people inEurope drove themselves into debt to pay for Christmas. The countries that were least likely to appreciate their gifts also tended to be more likely to go into debt, with Romania (19%) and the United Kingdom topping the list (17%), indicating that they could be parting with their hard earned cash for a limited return.
On a positive note, more people in Europe are planning ahead for their festive spending, with two in five (41%) now saving ahead for Christmas, up from 33% in 2015, indicating that people are starting to make smarter financial decisions. This may help explain why only a small proportion is falling into debt as a result of the holiday season.
Feeling the pressure
While gift giving is an important part of many cultural frameworks, it seems society could be piling pressure on to consumers, and even leading some into debt, as more than two in five (42%) people in Europe admitted they feel forced to spend money on Christmas festivities.
However, cultural differences mean that some countries feel significantly less pressure than average, particularly in areas where other Christmas festivals take precedence. For example, the Netherlands and Belgium focus on early December's Sinterklaas, which leaves them least likely to feel forced to splash out on Christmas later in the month.
The research found that seven in 10 (70%) people in Europe actually feel that Christmas has become too focused on spending money. The growing commercialisation of the holiday, highlighted by early Christmas sales, and shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, could be adding to the pressure many feel, encouraging people to panic-purchase gifts that might not be appreciated.
Ian Bright, Senior Economist, at ING commented: "Although more people are planning ahead and saving especially for Christmas, there are still some putting themselves into debt to please their family and friends, who may not even remember what they received a year later.
"There are many different ways to give at Christmas. Consumers may want to pause and think about the longer-term effect of their spending, before succumbing to pressure and purchasing expensive gifts that might go to waste. "