If there’s one thing we can be sure of in these unprecedented times, it’s the fact that Christmas 2020 in the UK is going to look very different from the festive seasons we’re used to. A lot of us are going to be spending the holiday at a more uncomfortable distance, while traditional home and office parties across the country are finding ways to go digital.

Despite all of this, there’s still one Christmas tradition that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere this year. When it comes to UK households, there’s just no stopping the shopping. Let’s take a look at some of the trends we’re seeing online and on the high street in 2020.

Where we’re spending our time

With the pandemic still limiting the kinds of travel we’re doing, we’re all shifting our journeys into more virtual realms. Overall, we’ve been spending about 70% more time on our smartphones while the COVID-19 restrictions have been in place. Our use of streaming services has leapt up by 51% and our use of both messaging apps and social media have risen by 45%. WhatsApp and Messenger use alone are up by an incredible 1,000%!

Where we’re spending our money

Why does our online time matter? Well, that’s where we’re increasingly splashing our Christmas cash around. With high street shops being tougher to get to, even when they’re not forced to close to protect people, online store use is rocketing.

According to a Shopblocks survey back in August, when UK shoppers go looking for Christmas presents they’re less and less likely to leave the house to do it. In fact, only 30% even bother checking out brick-and-mortar stores and shopping centres at all. That’s about the same percentage as those flocking to Amazon alone:

What we’re spending our money on

Right now, it’s looking like a typical UK household is set to up its Christmas spend by as much as 25% this year. To put a hard figure on that, we’re likely to be slapping down about £965 apiece in 2020 to cover the cost of presents. Just to break that down a bit: 

When we’re spending all this cash

Christmas really does come earlier every year. Once the UK started getting in on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday craziness, it all kicked off. Now Black Friday lasts for 2 solid weeks, we’re pumping £8.57 billion a year into it and the Christmas shopping goalposts just keep getting wider. UK retail saw the first Christmas spike as early as September in 2020, when sales jumped by 5.6%. Barclaycard reported a 2% jump in credit card sales at the same time. Even before the lockdown started, online sales for early 2020 were already 5% up on the previous year. Since the pandemic kicked off, those numbers have bumped up to between 40% and 50%.

The thing is, none of this is actually bad news. Starting your Christmas shopping earlier is a really good way of dodging most of the usual retail problems. That last-minute panic-splurge that would clean out your festive funds in a heartbeat can be spread out over several months. Not only do you avoid the stress and duck the disappointment, but you can also pick your moment and snipe off the best deals as they crop out throughout the year. 35% of us in the UK have already started our Christmas shopping by at least the middle of November, and that figure only looks set to rise further over time.

Who’s spending the most?

So, who’s the biggest shopper in your family? Odds are, it’s one of the boys. Last year, surveys reported that men were likely to spend a whopping £102.73 more on presents than women. In fact, 2 in 3 women said they were actively trying to cut down on their Christmas splurging, compared to a little over half of men surveyed.

There’s an age gap to consider here as well. The 2019 Gen-X crowd, for instance, were digging way deeper into their pockets than the younger mob. Here’s what those numbers looked like:

Partly, this probably has a lot to do with how much disposable income each age bracket has. Even so, it’s worth noting that Gen-Z is usually a lot smarter about handling the cash they can scramble together. 77% of them are making a conscious effort to keep their Christmas spending down. By contrast, just 30% their “silent generation” relatives (born 1928-45) were looking to cut down in 2019.

So, what does your Christmas spending plan look like? Are you a meticulous planner who’s already crossed off your list or an 11th-hour hero poised to strike at the last possible moment? Whatever strategy you’re pursuing, be sure you’re going in properly armed. A tax refund claimed through RIFT will more than cover the cost of Christmas, and keep your festive finances ticking over with your conscience and credit card clear. Get in touch and see how much you could claim with the UK’s leading tax experts this Christmas.

Use the RIFT tax refund calculator for an instant estimate of how much you could claim back from HMRC.