Dawn Savidge reflects on some of the cultural present buying norms and points to a better way 


Christmas can be a wonderful time, especially for those of us with small children. But it can also be an incredibly stressful time. The pressure to find and buy that ‘perfect’ gift for our friends and family, as well as create a warm, welcoming, clean, and calm home for our Christmas visitors can just be too much. I have often listened to the lyrics of ‘Santa Baby’ and longed to give (and receive) a list like that. Who would not want a Tiffany decoration for their tree? I have fallen into the rushed pace of the cultural world that we live in many times in the past.

According to Finder.com the average UK person will spend £602 on Christmas presents this year. This is an increase of 40% on last year’s average spending of £429. This differs between different generations, with Generation Z predicted to spend an average of £828 whilst the Baby Boomers will spend an average of £390. The average UK monthly salary is £2730, so that means that we are roughly spending a quarter of our salary on presents. Finder.com also stated that 43% of us plan to use our credit cards to cover this year’s spending with a total spend of £14 billion on credit cards alone. With average credit card interest rates of 24% APR, that is a lot of interest that needs to be paid back, and a lot of money for the banks.

The perfect Christmas story is now continually sold to us from September through to December through many retailers and on many different platforms. With the rise in social media usage, we are constantly met with a barrage of messages about how buying this locally made, organically sourced product will lead to a happier Christmas. In truth, it won’t. But I am hoping that most of us already know that.

So, what should our Christian response be to the rise in Christmas spending? Do we just ignore it? Participate in it ourselves? Let guilt win and ‘bend the plastic’ and later regret spending so much? What does the Bible have to say about money and Christmas?

The Bible speaks a lot about money and possessions. Scholars estimate there are over 2,000 verses which directly speak to these topics. The Bible does not say that money is wrong. What it does say however, is the love of money is wrong (1 Timothy 6:10) as is greed (Luke 12:15). So, we need to get our attitude to money and possessions right. There are many quotes and scientific research papers into why money cannot buy you happiness. Prem Rawat, an international speaker and author said, ‘with money you can buy a house, but not a home. With money you can buy a clock, but not time. With money you can buy a book, but not knowledge. With money you can buy blood, but not life. So, what can you buy with money?’

Our cultures need to overspend at Christmas, comes from the fact that many people do not have a real relationship with Jesus. True happiness and contentment come from knowing the One who gave up everything so that we might spend an eternity with him. It doesn’t come from Tiffany decorations and a light blue convertible. But how does that work when you have children and family members who don’t really understand why they cannot have all that they ask for? Here are a few points that might help.

Go back to the Bible. Re-read the Christmas story with your family. Ask wondering questions about the passages. I wonder what it was like to see the star? I wonder what it was like to see baby Jesus? Recapture the magic of the miracle of His birth. This website has lots of ideas of how to do that.

Be honest. When money is tight our budgets become smaller. Instead of reaching for your credit card (if you have one), talk to your family and friends about this year being the start of something new. And then decide what that new will look like. Be an example for others to follow.

Make a pledge that you will make this year’s Christmas simpler. Handmade gifts like a photo album or a foodie basket with a handmade cake are so personal. One year my children received their own personalised story from a family member which they all loved. Use the 4 present rule: something to wear, something to read, something you want and something you need. A secondhand book with a box of chocolates would be great for a booklover. Setting a sensible budget and using your creativity makes the gift even more special.

Look for gifts in charity shops, eBay and Facebook marketplace. A lot of what has been given away still has a lot of life left in it. One of my favourite presents as a child was a yellow bike. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learnt that my dad had been given it for free and he had painted it new for me.

How about spreading out Christmas gifts during the whole year? Last year, I gave each child a day out with me. It gave us some quality 1:1 time and I got to spend a whole day with them doing something that they really loved. One of my favourite Christmas presents was the year I popped a card in 12 individual boxes and wrapped them up. On each card was written a monthly family pledge to do something together. These ranged from a family fun day, in which they chose to go swimming, a Clued-Up game in our local town, to a play in London. Again, this spread the cost of Christmas over the full year.

But most of all remember that you don’t need to spend enormous amounts of money to let people know that they are loved. And remember the gift that you were freely given. God gave us His son to be born on earth and crucified so that we might live (John 3:16). What a gift that is! One that we could never surpass but one that we can help reveal to those who don’t yet know Him through our words and actions this Christmas. So let go of the guilt and overspending, and instead spend time worshipping Jesus with your friends and family this Christmas.