The majority of Australians (64%) say the rising cost of living is impacting their Christmas plans and dampening their excitement surrounding the festive season, according to new research by leading consumer intelligence platform, Toluna.

The research showed that 40% of respondents are stressed about having enough money to buy gifts this year, but the expectations around gift-giving make them feel obliged to spend, despite financial pressure.   

Almost two-thirds (64%) of Australians said the rising cost of living is impacting their Christmas plans this year, with the vast majority (83%) saying it’s affecting how much they’re going to be able to spend on gifts. Just under half (46%) say financial worries are impacting their overall mood and excitement with regards to Christmas.

Younger people are particularly affected, with 75% of those between 18 to 34 stating the cost of living is impacting their Christmas plans, compared with 69% of those between 35 to 54, and 49% of over 55s. 

Given the rising cost of living, the majority (65%) of Australians feel there’s too much focus on gift-giving at Christmas time. One in five (22%) said they would like to be able to spend less, but their children/friends/family have come to expect a certain number of gifts.  

Over half (51%) stated they would prefer a simpler Christmas; this was particularly true amongst the older generations, with 70% of over 55s wishing for a simpler Christmas (compared with just 35% of 18 to 34 year olds). Just over a third (37%) said the financial stress takes away the joy of Christmas, and 35% said they wish they didn’t feel so pressured to buy so many things.

To help cover the additional cost of Christmas, one in ten (12%) respondents said they’ll be picking up extra work shifts over the festive period. This was particularly true for those 18 to 34 (18%) and 35 to 54 (17%), compared with only 3% of over 55s.  

To help reduce costs, 43% of Australians have bought, or will buy, more discounted sale items, with 36% buying fewer items overall. Almost one in four (23%) will not be buying for extended family this year, with 10% implementing a Secret Santa to reduce costs. Some couples (19%) have agreed not to buy each other anything this year as a way of reducing costs.  

Despite gift-givers feeling pressured to buy gifts, one in three (35%) Australians stated they often, or always, receive gifts they don’t want or need. Almost half (45%) will keep gifts to re-gift to someone else, with 43% guilty of putting them in the cupboard and forgetting about them. One in five (22%) will try to sell unwanted gifts through sites like Gumtree, eBay, or Marketplace, and 14% will try to take them back to the store for a refund.  

Rather than receiving unwanted gifts, Australians would rather get store credit (58%) so they could buy something they wanted. Cash (53%), experience vouchers (37%), or donations to a charity in their name (19%) were other popular alternatives to receiving unwanted gifts. However, just under a quarter (23%) would simply prefer not to receive gifts from, or buy for, certain people.  

As environmental issues continue to be a top priority for Australians, the majority (88%) said it’s important that they reduce waste this Christmas. Some of the actions to reduce their environmental impact this year include avoiding buying overly packaged gifts (49%) and avoiding plastic gifts (41%) where possible; reusing their existing tree and decorations (42%); not sending Christmas cards (37%); and asking people what gifts they want in advance to avoid purchasing unwanted gifts (33%).

Toluna Australia and New Zealand country director, Sej Patel said, “The cost of living has been top of mind for Australians for a large part of 2022, so it’s not surprising that Aussies are also feeling the pinch this Christmas. Our research shows that, despite being under financial strain, the social pressures and expectations around gift-giving are making this a particularly difficult time of year, with some saying it’s dampening their Christmas spirit.

“Discounts and less expensive brands have become much more appealing to consumers, and retailers must be prepared to see brand loyalty put to the test as consumers turn to brand switching and shopping the sales to control escalating expenses. To build and maintain customer loyalty, retailers should be heavily focused on messaging around value to consumers over the Christmas shopping period.”