Unnecessary last minute ‘top-up’ gifts mean women blow the Christmas budget

7 December 2011

Men are more likely to spend what they intend and shop well in advance says research from the NS&I Lifestyle Savings Survey.

  • 11.3 million women overspend at Christmas with many tempted to splash out on last minute ‘top-up’ gifts
  • Men are much more relaxed when it comes to Christmas gift giving: only around two fifths (37%) overspend and 17% say that they aren’t fussed about the presents they receive as long as they get one

Last minute ‘top-up’ gifts are an expensive shopping habit for women at Christmas, with almost half (46%) going over their budget to add that little extra to their friends’ and family’s present pile, according to new data from NS&I. Only around two fifths (37%) of men spend more than intended and most finish their shopping well before Christmas.

Many women can’t resist the temptation of buying ‘top-up’ gifts for loved ones, in addition to those they have already bought months in advance. One third (33%) of women will be splashing out on extra presents in the run up to Christmas, compared to a quarter (25%) of men. Women in their thirties and forties are particularly likely to exhibit this behaviour, with almost half (49%) unable to resist these last minute stocking fillers and tree presents for family and loved ones.

Almost two fifths (37%) of women believe that Christmas presents are so important that price is not a priority, and many are becoming tempted to spend more than they planned to. NS&I’s findings show that total spending for women is, on average, about £50 higher than men. However they are also the worst sufferers of New Year financial blues with two fifths (40%) of women admitting to feelings of frustration, guilt or stress at spending more than they can afford to at Christmas.

Men take a much more regimented approach to buying Christmas gifts, and only around two fifths (37%) go over their set budget. Contrary to the popular stereotype of men dashing out to buy last minute presents, they are more likely to have finished their shopping well before Christmas and within budget. Over a fifth of men (22%) buy all their presents months in advance and within budget, compared to just 14% of women. Counter intuitively, this difference is even more pronounced with young men (16-24 years old), almost a quarter (23%) of whom buy all their presents in advance in contrast to just over one in ten (11%) women of that age.

NS&I Savings Spokesperson, John Prout, said:

Everyone loves to please their nearest and dearest and it can be tempting to splash out on extra treats and gifts to do so, particularly in the final few days before Christmas. However, our research shows that few people look at the value of gifts they are given. The last thing anyone wants during this season of goodwill is to have financial worries at the back of their mind, so we’re encouraging people to stick to an affordable budget, enjoy the festivities with people they are close to, and concentrate on what really matters at this time of the year.

Many Britons already have a Christmas spending strategy in place to ensure they don’t go over budget. With around one in ten people having agreed a spending limit in advance with friends and family, and more than a third shopping in the sales to cut costs. NS&I is encouraging everyone to think ahead and to adopt an affordable spending strategy of their own.

NS&I’s research shows that almost a fifth (17%) of men don’t mind what presents they receive, so long as they receive something, a feeling shared by a much smaller percentage of women (8%). In addition, men place more value on the act of gift-giving, rather than worrying about the quality of the gift itself, with nearly a fifth (19%) saying that buying presents is a gesture that doesn’t need much thought, compared to only a tenth (10%) of women. Interestingly, very few people actually care about the price tag on presents, with almost two thirds of Britons (61%) simply saying it’s the thought that counts.

At present, two fifths (41%) of the population are risking financial worry by spending more than they planned to at Christmas. With Britons already splashing out an average of £430 on gifts, millions of people risk waking up with a New Year financial hangover they hadn’t bargained on.


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