How inflation stole Christmas in UK: in five charts

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It is supposed to be the season for indulgence, giving and goodwill. But for many, Christmas is marked by financial stress as they strive to meet the associated costs.

This year, the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs and supply chain issues have pushed prices of food, gifts and travel up sharply. Close to half (46%) of UK consumers say they plan to cut back this festive season due to rising costs, according to research released by Which?

Here are some of the key areas fuelling the Christmas cost of living crisis.

The cost of giving

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows how the prices of some typical gifts have increased over the last year. The stocking staple, a pair of men’s socks, will have set you back 9% more this year than in November last year. The price of perfumes and fragrances was up by 7%, a men’s knitted jumper cost 3% more than last year, and a women’s jumper cost 9% more.

Cost of giving chart

It’s not all bad news: some gifts have fallen in price. For the cost-cutting present buyer, books may be a good option. A nonfiction hardback cost 16% less in November 2022 than it did in November 2021, while a Top 10 paperback fiction book was 10% cheaper. Electronic goods have also fallen in price, with games consoles retailing at 11% cheaper and smartphones 1% cheaper than last year on average.

Trimming back on all the trimmings

The Christmas squeeze may result in fewer boxes under the Christmas tree this year. Two-fifths of consumers surveyed by Which? said they planned to buy fewer gifts this season with a third saying they would buy cheaper presents than in previous years.

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A third of consumers said they would buy cheaper presents while a similar figure said they would be buying less food and cheaper groceries. One in six said they would attend fewer paid festivities this year while almost one in 10 (%) said they would buy secondhand gifts.

Trimming back chart

Plating up

Tradition decrees that you must consume a month’s calories in one sitting on Christmas Day – but this year inflation means it is going to cost you a pretty penny to do so. The increase in the cost of a Christmas dinner is dependent on what retail researchers put into their basket but one estimates the cost of traditional Christmas dinner items has risen three times faster than wages this year.

A Guardian analysis of figures provided by the retail research company Assosia found that the average price of a Christmas dinner food shop – to feed about six people – across the traditional big four supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons) had risen by 15% on last year.

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Looking at own-brand prices during the week ending 24 November, a trolley with a 3.5kg turkey as well as trimmings and a bottle of wine cost nearly £40 this year – up from an average £34.49 during the same period last year.

The cost of one portion of dinner, not including leftovers, increased by about 13%.

Christmas food chart

The price per kg of frozen turkey rose from £3.93 to £4.79 – an increase of more than a fifth. The cost of a packet of maris piper potatoes had risen by 34% compared with November 2021, with a 2-2.5kg bag costing £1.59. A 500g bag of parsnips similarly increased by 33% on average across the four supermarket chains. Own-brand Cranberry sauce rose by 37% over the year – a jar now costing on average 87p, up from 64p last year.

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Some elements of the festive feast have not been hit by as dramatic a price rise, as producers and retailers have managed to keep costs down, especially among more premium lines. A bottle of Campo Viejo rioja reserva cost £10.13 on average – up only 13p from 2021. Meanwhile, a premium Christmas pudding (400-454g) should set a family back £5.38 on average, exactly the same as last year (a standard range pudding cost 7% more).

Cost of Christmas cooking

With energy costs on the rise, it is not just the food itself that is pushing up bills but also the cost of preparing it. Take the traditional Christmas roast as an example: it will cost about £1.18 to run an average electric oven for three hours this year, up from 73p last year, based on the energy price guarantee. Using a gas oven would cost 48p, compared with 19p last year.

Cooking Christmas dinner using an electric oven will cost almost £1.20 this year

Driving home for Christmas

With rail strikes continuing many drivers may opt to get into their cars and crank up the Chris Rea. However, the price of both petrol and diesel – which fuelled 94% of vehicles in the UK in the three months to June – have shot up in the last year.

According to the RAC’s Fuel Watch the cost of petrol increased from 147.24p a litre in the first week of December last year to 159.74p in the same week of 2022. Diesel drivers will have had their costs rise even more – from 150.63p to 183.74p a litre, a 22% rise. Figures for both types of vehicles are based on an average mileage of 40 miles a gallon.

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As a result the cost of a round trip for someone driving from London to see their family in Hull will cost £6 more in petrol and £16 more in diesel than it did just one year ago.

The cost of a round trip from London to Hull will cost £6 more than this time last year and £16 more in a diesel vehicle

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