Friday, November 23, 2012


It's well documented that Ireland is bankrupt and that disposable incomes are a long-lost dream of yesterday. 

So why then do Irish consumers spend the most out of any European country on Christmas?

A new survey from accountancy firm Deloitte predicts that Irish consumers will spend an average of €966 per household, of which €500 will be spent on gifts, €288 spent on food and drink and €178 spent on socialising. The European average is just €591 and the lowest spend is just €287 per household in Holland.

The good news is that Irish outlay is down from €1,300 at the height of the boom, with consumers reckoning they'll spend 1.7% less than last year.  Woohoo!

Yet all I ever hear from friends and countrywomen is how skint they are and how they can't afford to pay their mortgage.
So why do people spend so much at Christmas? It could be that the cost of living is so much higher over here, it could the hefty price tag of presents, it could be the huge chunk of VAT the tax man takes...

Or it could be the fact that most Irish men and women have some innate irrational fear of being seen to be miserly. Heaven forbid you can't pay the mortgage, but you must buy a massive present for your neighbour's daughter-in-law who's just had her third child.

Even when totally skint, they still try to buy you a drink at the bar. My hubby can't biologically be bought a drink by someone without squirming awkwardly until he's cancelled his debt by buying one back. Even if that person has had enough and wants to go home, he'll force it on them.

If someone is here for dinner, he'll keep loading up their plate as they plead with him to stop yet politely pick through it until they blow up into a ball and have to be rolled out of the door.

I call him Mrs Doyle when he gets like this.

So why does an Irishman detest the idea of being perceived as mean? It's always baffled me. As someone who grew up among tight Yorkshire men, most of whom prided themselves on being miserly, I've never been able to get my head around the force-feeding Irish spirit. It's beyond generous. It's so kind it's bonkers. 

The hubby says it goes back to his Colonial heritage; they may have been raped, pillaged and starved for Centuries, but they'll never give in to a nationwide complex of inferiority. 

You only have to look at last year's World Giving report from the Charities Aid Foundation to find out what a generous nation Ireland is. Our green and pleasant isle was ranked as the most charitable country in Europe and the second most charitable nation in the world (behind the US), with 75 per cent of Irish people donating money to charity and 38 per cent volunteered their time each month. 

Ireland also had the highest percentage of residents who said they often "help a stranger". This openness and friendliness of strangers has always been the main thing I love about Ireland.

Since moving to Ireland six and a half years ago I've been blown away by the massive gifts people give for Christmas, baby births, Naming Days, our Wedding and recently my birthday. But for every bit of largess, it raises the bar. I worry that I have to reciprocate equally - which I can no longer afford as our 3 little people soak up all our money now.

This year I've come to an agreement with family members to "NOT buy gifts for each other" because the list of people to buy for just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Desperate times - driven by my unassailable stress (where will I get the time or money to organise Christmas presents for 25 people?). I've not enjoyed Christmases recently because of all this stress involved in buying and wrapping so many presents. So I've been proactive this year, rather than stress about it, I've reduced the load. We've said we'll just buy for the kids.

My hubby has 8 nieces and nephews and five godchildren, and our own 3 kids are starting to ask for presents worth €100 (I know this is nothing compared to what it's going to become). 

So please, if you're reading this and thinking of buying big presents for us this year, please don't. Just a small thing for the kids if you must...

Lets cut down that crazy €1000 spend per house and then the New Year hangover won't be so long-lasting and depressing. 


Anonymous said...

Oh I have to plead guilty here! But for me it applies to hospitality. The idea of not having enough wine or food when we have guests fills me with fear! I always have too much of everything. I'm also the same as your husband when it comes to the drink buying reciprocation.

I'm totally with you on the present buying though. Buying Christmas and birthday presents for adult family members drives me crazy (unless its a big bday). We're all grown ups! We started a kriskindle among all the adults a few years ago and it's the best thing we ever did. Everyone gets one nice present each and you just spend €75. We've saved a fortune!

Caitriona (Wholesome Ireland) said...

At the height of the celtic tiger I dread to think about what we have spent.
Nowadays we absorb the cost of the food over the weekly shop from the start of December, then the kids' presents and the family Kris Kindles. I confess to being incredibly stressed this year about it all and there isn't a chance we'll come anywhere near the "average" spend. x

Maud said...

Crazy. I totally agree. I think I missed the national inclination to generosity (maybe because my father is English; though he'd give you the shirt off his back himself). A few years ago my husband's siblings and mum agreed that instead of trying to buy everyone a small(ish) present we'd do a kris kindle and each person would get just one to buy a biggish present for. A limit of 100 euros was set, but things seem to have been climbing up and up...

With the nephews and nieces, I made the executive decision to cut them off at 18, so after that I don't buy them presents. This miserly behaviour means I only have four to buy for this year - score!