Belfast Telegraph

‘We’ve spent £1,500 on toys already' - generous Northern Ireland parents happy to shell out £100 more than UK average on kids’ Christmas gifts

Quinn (3)
Quinn (3)
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland parents spend almost £230 on Christmas presents for every child — almost £100 more per head than their UK counterparts.

But for some, Santa’s bill can easily run into thousands of pounds, even before any other costs associated with the big day, such as dinner, decorations and clothes, are calculated.

A new survey on festive spending found that parents here fork out £228.62 per child over the age of 16. The UK average is £129.79.

Buying gifts for children under 16 is, however, generally less pricey for eager-to-please adults who part with £155.67 for each of their young people.

Belfast mum Jamie-Leigh Collins (22), a retail assistant, has two daughters, Quinn (3) and 10-month-old Bonnie, with her partner Jim Graham (22), a software engineer.

For them, December 25 is a big deal.

Jamie-Leigh said they are not “the type of parents who buy the children toys every month so we like to go all out for Christmas” and revealed they have spent £1,500 on toys alone.

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“I promised to cut down this year and I set a budget of £600 each,” she said.

“But that went out the window and I’ve spent £800 on Quinn and £700 on Bonnie. I haven’t even bought them a stitch of clothing or shoes yet. Everything just adds up.”

She added: “We’ve got them some big presents but the bulk of the money was spent on bits and pieces. It scares you how much money you can spend on them without realising.”

Parents Jamie-Leigh and Jim with Quinn and Bonnie
Parents Jamie-Leigh and Jim with Quinn and Bonnie

Quinn’s presents include a selection of Toy Story characters (£250), a dolls house (£100), four Disney Princess dolls and two Princes (£90), a bike (£105) and a Wiggle car (£40).

Meanwhile, among Bonnie’s gifts are a Ride-on (£40), a high chair (£65), a car seat (£100), an activity set (£65) and “loads of learning and study aids at between £15 and £40 each”.

Although Belfast is also the most generous UK city when it comes to buying gifts for partners, with most of us spending £216.16 on our other half, Jamie-Leigh admitted that she has still to purchase Jim’s present.

She added: “Normally we treat each other quite well but this year we’ve promised that we’re really going to cut it down.

“Last year I spent over £500 on Jim but I was worried it wasn’t enough... it’s his birthday next week so I’d better get myself organised soon.”

She added: “December is a tough month in our household.”

Quinn‘s parents Jamie-Leigh and Jim have spent £1,500 on toys alone
Quinn‘s parents Jamie-Leigh and Jim have spent £1,500 on toys alone

New data from revealed that the UK is set to spend £33.3bn on Christmas presents this year, with the average spend per person in Belfast expected to be £73.81.

Whilst children may receive the largest total spend on average, that amount differs depending on where you live in the UK, with Belfast parents spending £228.62, 70% more than those in Plymouth (£67.73).

The data also revealed that in Northern Ireland we do have a favourite parent, with people on average spending £79.19 on their mums, compared to £45.27 on their dad.

Alarmingly, almost half (47%) of those surveyed revealed they do not financially prepare for Christmas throughout the year, with one in five (21%) admitting they will get into debt to pay for this year’s festivities.

Fuelled by the results, however, has developed a new interactive calculator — The Gifting Index — designed to make budgeting easy, and allowing you to compare your spending habits with the rest of the regions.

The tool allows users to plan out their full year of gifting by breaking it into manageable monthly chunks, and compare their current gifting spend to others around the UK.

For example, the average Brit earning £28,000 and looking to purchase the average nine presents for Christmas 2020, would need to budget £50.85 a month, based on the UK’s average gift spends.

A spokeswoman said there was no doubting the generosity of Northern Ireland people.

“Our research shows Belfast to be one of the most generous cities in the UK, with the city topping the list for the highest spend on both children and their partners,” she said.

“However, with high expectations to meet costs and make Christmas 2019 the best yet, it’s easy to feel the pressure and fall into debt.”

Seasonal spending


Children (over 16) £155.67

Children (under 16) £228.62

Dad £45.27

Extended Family (Aunties, Uncles, Cousins) £22.84

Father in Law £32.89

Friends £44.30;

Grandparents £29.73

Mother in Law £46.25

Mum £79.19

Partner £216.16

Pets £19.78 

Siblings £82.19

Stepdad  £62.38

Stepmum £29.50

Work Colleagues £12.32


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