We all know it’s supposed to be the thought that counts – but is it, though? Really? If that were true then why are we slogging our guts out every year trying to find just the right gift – not to mention the cash to spend on it?

Honestly, it’s not even like we’re any good at choosing presents. Every year, according to a new YouGov survey, 57% of us are receiving at least one unwanted or inappropriate Christmas gift. 48% of us say we really struggle to come up with present ideas for our mates and loved ones – and we’re blowing a ridiculous £380 million between us on useless tat along the way! Here’s a quick run-down of some of the main items on the UK’s Least Wanted list for Christmas gifts:

  • 38% of us are getting pointless bath products.
  • 18% are sick of getting Blu Ray films or TV boxsets.
  • 16% are fed up of throwing away useless candles. Seriously – who’s buying these?
  • Another 16% are bellyaching about finding their stockings stuffed with chocolate.
  • 14%: socks. Need we say more?

What do people want for Christmas?

Of course, it’s all about matching the present to the person. Chocolates, for instance, also show up on some of the UK’s Most Wanted survey lists – at 28.6% in one case, making them the 6th most hoped-for gift option. Top choices for both men and women seem to involve clothing or shoes, with only jewellery topping them on women’s wishlists. Generally, we’re still more in love with presents we can hold in our hands over digital downloads. Paper books are still almost 4 times as popular as ebooks, while 3 times as many people would pick a DVD over a movie download.

Seriously, though, literally no one wants those ridiculous candles.

How much do we spend on unwanted presents each year?

With about £7 billion worth of unwanted presents being returned to retailers every year (that’s not just Christmas gifts, obviously), choosing what to buy is every bit as important as deciding how much to spend. On average in the UK, we’re blowing £96.64 on our spouses alone at Christmas, with families and mates lagging behind. The trouble is, a lot of us are getting caught up in an escalation cycle that’s emptying our wallets and forcing us to look elsewhere.

About 12% of us are funding our Christmas present spending sprees with a loan, for instance. Almost as many are borrowing from friends and family – which is a bit like robbing Peter to buy an unwanted candle for Paul. Even worse, 38% of UK taxpayers are dumping their festive spending on a credit card, which is one of the most expensive debts you can take on. Don’t even get us started about those “payday loan” outfits, either!

How to set a Christmas budget with friends

Here’s the thing: you’re probably better off having a chat with your mates about their expectations. Yes, we know – we’re a country of people who’d rather eat sprouts than talk about money, but a little social awkwardness now’s a lot better than financial hardship for months to come. Don’t get dragged into a bad place by trying to match or one-up your mates’ generosity. Set yourself a budget and stick to it.

While you’re at it, remember that a tax refund is a much better way to fund your Christmas than a loan or credit card. Better yet, why not use RIFT’s Refer a Friend scheme to line yourself AND a mate up with a chance of winning £1,000 EACH? Our RIFT Christmas Double Acts offer means we’re literally doubling the prizes, along with your chances to win. The basic scheme means you can earn cold, hard cash for every friend you recommend to us when they claim their tax refund with RIFT. On top of that, there are regular extra prize draws – with a Star Prize of £1,000 for both you and your friend!

You can read all about RIFT Refer a Friend and Double Acts here. Get those referrals rolling in, start earning your cash rewards and secure your entry into our prize draws now.

RIFT are the UK's leading tax rebate and tax return experts who've been in the industry since 1999.  Check out our free tax rebate calculator to get an instant estimate of how much cash you can claim back from HMRC.