Which is it for you this Christmas? Cautious scaling back or one last blow-out before Brexit hits?
Christmas can be difficult for families at the best of times. Those big boozy Christmas dinners and present-laden trees don’t come cheap. Back in 2015 the average family was already spending more than £800 on Christmas. And with a Brexit-driven rise in the cost of living already hitting, things are only set to get worse.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the cost of heating oil is 47 per cent higher than it was in 2015 — and energy firms have warned that prices may go up even more after Brexit. Meanwhile, since 2015 the price of a standard Christmas dinner (minus alcohol — let’s not even go there) has leapt by over 30 per cent as tracked by the Good Housekeeping Annual Christmas Dinner survey.
This rise is partly a result of the devalued pound relative to the euro (it just costs more to import goods — which bizarrely include potatoes and sprouts). But it’s also because of a rise in transportation costs: before we voted to leave, lorries coming over from Europe with our Christmas oranges, sprouts and potatoes would return back to the continent with goods they were importing from us. But because of Brexit uncertainty, the EU is just importing less from us, as continental firms seek to mitigate potential supply chain disruptions in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
So where does this leave cash-strapped mums, who are the ones who tend to manage household budgets, and who are almost invariably the ones in charge of Christmas? Over on Mumsnet, mums are divided over how to approach Christmas this year.
Some said that they were cutting back in the anticipation of a uncertain year ahead.
“I’m trying to cut back as I’m very mindful that this could be the last comfortable Christmas for a good while,” wrote one user. “Yes,” agreed another, “it just feels wrong to be frittering money away when you don’t know what is coming.” Another mum said she was “limiting spending” as she was trying to “clear debt before Brexit day.”
It was the same story for their Leave-voting parents who were also feeling the pinch. “My parents, who both voted Leave, have noticeably cut back as ‘everything is so expensive now’,” explained one mum, while another said that her parents-in-law were talking about scaling back on presents this year. “Apparently the value of their pensions and investments have gone down and they are worried that things will get worse. They voted leave but I can see that reality is finally starting to hit them.”
Others were trying to get their essential spending in place now while they could still afford it. Several mentioned replacing white goods or finally getting round to home improvements they’d been putting off.
“We had building work done this year and also replaced electrical goods. I’m buying additional food which will keep and alcohol, not really for Christmas, more for expected price rises and/or lack of availability depending on what ends up happening,” one mum explained. “Absolutely,” said another. “I’m spending on what I can to mitigate the effects” of Brexit. One mum who said she was cutting back her spending nevertheless said she was “spending funds on dried goods etc which will keep.”
But many mums remained defiant: if this was going to be the last good Christmas they had in a while, they were going to make it count.
“I feel as though this Christmas is a last hurrah,” wrote one mum, while another said that ”If it’s the last one we may be able to enjoy I’m damn well making sure my family enjoy it. £500 blown on prezzies and a lavish dinner will not save us if we lose our jobs or can’t afford the mortgage anymore.”
The general sentiment of the thread seems to be summed up by the mum who wrote, “Let’s enjoy the last Christmas before chaos. Next year will be hellish.”
But it doesn’t have to be. There is still a way out of the Brexit doldrums. Theresa May may have survived her no confidence vote, but there is still no way her deal is getting through parliament. That means the choice facing us is between no deal — or no Brexit at all. And only the people, with a People’s Vote, have the right to decide on that.