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Costly Christmas: Must-have items increase as shipping costs jump 773%

·3-min read
aerial view of shipping port with containers, kangaroos made out of Christmas lights wearing Santa hats
The cost of Christmas is increasing. (Sources: Getty)

A year defined by a global shipping crisis, pandemic and inflation concerns will culminate in a costly Christmas, with many popular items more expensive than they were in 2020.

Christmas trees at Target have increased by around 41 per cent for comparable trees since 2019, while Australian Christmas tree retailer, Balsam Hill, has increased prices by up to 19 per cent, Finder analysis has found.

Shoppers hoping to pick up a 180cm Canadian blue spruce tree should expect to spend $849 in 2021 - up from $599 in 2020, while those hunting for a smaller 150cm tree will need to spend $619, up from $559.

The presents under the tree will also cost more as shipping costs add pressure, Finder found.

Shipping Australia estimates ship-chartering costs have soared 773 per cent since May 2020, and this is affecting brands like Mattel, Hasbro and Nike.

“This Christmas is unique, with millions of Aussies emerging from lockdowns with built-up savings and pent-up demand,” Finder money expert Sarah Megginson said.

“It’s important households appropriately prepare for this costly festive season and don’t blow their budgets.”

How much more does Christmas cost?

The Consumer Price Index increased 0.8 per cent in the September quarter, bringing it to an annual figure of 3 per cent, with food, housing, furnishings, recreation and transport driving the change.

That’s playing out in Christmas lunch costs, with Finder predicting a table of food will cost up to 6 per cent more than a similar spread in 2020.

Finder analysed the price of smoked ham, turkey, garlic prawns, fruit cake and potato salad at Coles and Woolworths.

Christmas cherries will also cost more, with growers warning a pending labour shortage could see shoppers slugged with $20 for a kilogram of cherries.

A Deakin University study of 7,000 grocery items found dried pasta prices were up 15 per cent while fresh fruit was up 7 per cent.

Shoppers plan to spend a total $23.9 billion on Christmas this year, a total increase of 38 per cent on 2020, Finder found.

The average Australian will fork out $1,232 on presents, travel, eating out and food and alcohol.

However, the portion spent on gifts will shrink, with shoppers predicting a $374 spend on gifts, down from $391.

How do you stack up?

Here’s how much the average Australian will spend:

  • Going out: $174

  • Travel: $269

  • Gifts: $374

  • Alcohol: $107

  • Food: $308

“Do some research prior to shopping and take advantage of Black Friday deals at the end of November for gifts,” Megginson suggested.

“Try to offset higher spending with savings in other areas, such as switching car insurance for a better deal or refinancing to a cheaper home loan to reduce monthly repayments.

“You may even be able to get a new home loan with a cashback offer to give your savings a boost.

“If you aren’t cashed up this Christmas, families could replace gifts with things like acts of service or experiences, like a picnic at the beach.”

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