When we talk about the impact a global pandemic has on UK families, the cost can’t always be counted in strictly financial terms. Obviously, we don’t know yet what kind of local or national lockdown rules we’ll be looking at when the time comes. Even so, with the festive season run-up already underway, it’s worth putting some thought into the kind of Christmas we’re hoping for.

Ticking off the Christmas lists

If there’s one thing we’re already pretty sure about, it’s the fact that COVID-19 isn’t stopping the shopping. In fact, if the surveys are anything to go by, “go buy” is definitely the operative phrase. UK shoppers are expecting to ramp up their Christmas buying frenzies by as much as 25% this year. That’s an average spend of £965 per person across the country.

Chances are, we’ll be shifting away from high street shops and Christmas markets in favour of their digital relatives, though. In fact, with major events like the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland being knocked on the head for 2020, you might not even have the real-world options you’re used to.  Don’t expect too many opportunities to park your kids on Santa’s lap this year, either. As an elderly chap in a high-risk weight range, expect Father Christmas to be keeping a safe distance from super-spreader children wherever possible.

This is all worth remembering when you plan your attack on the online retailers. If there’s a major surge in digital sales, stock shortages and delivery drag could easily leave a lot of stockings empty on Christmas morning. Those weird relatives we all have who always start their holiday shopping in August might actually have the right idea. Blasting through in a last-minute panic is as likely to lead to disappointment online as in the brick-and-mortar stores of 2020.

Getting together

We’re all used to gathering our families around us at Christmas, whether we want to or not. That’s probably going to pose a couple of extra complications this year, though. The coronavirus rules can change fast, and a lot of us are confused about what’s allowed from week to week. On top of that, we’ve now got regional variations to consider. Your family might set off as a perfectly legal group to visit relatives in the North, only to find you’re an illegal multi-household gathering when you arrive.

Next, there’s the question of what you’ll actually be doing when you get together. Assuming you’re not breaking any rules by meeting up at all, there’s still a shifting landscape of rules to trip you up. Venues like pubs and restaurants have to be incredibly careful now, with strict closing times and bans on certain types of service cropping up everywhere. “Table service only” rules could be killing off Christmas disco nights, and even traditional office parties will be struggling to find a legal way to operate.

Chances are, many of our festive meet-ups with family, friends and workmates will be taking place over the internet in 2020. It’s better than nothing – and for a lot of people it might actually be an improvement. Even so, it’s probably not how we pictured our Christmas parties.

Family entertainment

Along with the hospitality sector, the entertainment industry’s had a big bite taken out of it by COVID-19. Festive pantomimes are being scrapped, entire cinema chains are shutting down and even well loved TV shows and blockbuster movie releases are being delayed or cancelled. If you’re starving for live entertainment, you might still have a few options – depending on where you live and what the rules for travelling are. Even so, you’ll probably want to consider your family’s safety before heading out. We’re likely to be living in a land of facemasks and social distancing for a while yet, so make sure you’re comfortable with the safety measures in place wherever you’re going.

The year ahead

The crystal ball grows even murkier when we try to scan ahead to 2021. Honestly, no one’s seriously expecting the pandemic to disappear magically overnight on New Year’s Eve, though. Big events like London’s traditional New Year fireworks display are already cancelled, for example. That’s not to say that British families won’t be finding their own ways to mark the occasion, of course. It’s just that more of us will be doing it from the relative safety of our own homes this time around.

However you’re spending this Christmas, and whoever you’re spending it with, keep safe, keep healthy and keep on claiming your yearly tax rebate with RIFT. The cost of Christmas is on the rise, but with RIFT on your side you’ll be stuffing your wallet along with the turkey this holiday.

RIFT are the UK's leading tax refund and tax return specialists.  If you think you might be owed tax back from HMRC, check out free and easy to use tax refund calculator for an instant estimate of what you could be owed.