Aussies plan more ‘mindful’ Christmas spending after blowing $400 million on unwanted gifts

Two bank surveys have revealed Australians plan to cut back on their Christmas spending.

Two bank surveys have revealed Australians plan to cut back on their Christmas spending. Photo: Heidi Sandstrom/Unsplash

Fresh research has revealed Australians are reining in their Christmas spending and seeking ways to shop more sustainably.

According to St George Bank, almost one in two Australians (43 per cent) are setting spending limits on gifts to friends and family this year.

And roughly one-third (31 per cent) of the 1056 Australians surveyed by the Westpac-owned bank said they were planning to buy fewer gifts this year, too.

St George general manager Ross Miller said few Australians were planning to go “full Scrooge”, though.

Parents expected to spend an average of $255 on their children this Christmas, he said.

Nine out of 10 Australians still planned to buy a present for their partner, with over two-thirds admitting that, “if anything, they are most likely to overspend on presents for their loved ones”.

“Filling the Santa stocking is rarely cheap, but it doesn’t have to derail saving goals for the family,” Mr Miller added.

“Budgeting tools like a budget planner calculator can help you plot out just how much to put aside and what for, be it a game console for the kids or a little treat-yourself perk this Christmas.”

Shopping more sustainably

Reduced spending means more bad news for a retail sector that has just recorded its slowest annual growth rate since the 1990-1991 recession.

But it would also mean less gifts ending up in landfill.

According to Dutch bank ING, Australians received 10 million unwanted gifts last Christmas – with novelty gifts (51 per cent), candles (40 per cent), pamper products (40 per cent), pyjamas and slippers (35 per cent), and underwear or socks (32 per cent) topping the list of undesirables.

The bank found Australians wasted $411 million on unwanted gifts – supporting earlier claims that Christmas returns accounted for 5 billion pounds, or 2.27 billion kilograms, of landfilled waste in the US alone.

“This is a huge amount of people’s hard-earned money that they’re spending,” ING’s head of retail banking Melanie Evans told The New Daily.

“What we want to make sure is that, No.1, as their bank, they’re not spending money that they don’t need to, and No.2, if they’re going to spend, we want to help them spend wisely.”

If the bank’s survey is anything to go by, Australians are plenty interested in shopping more wisely.

More than half (57 per cent) of the 1079 surveyed said they wanted to give sustainable gifts, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said they preferred receiving a socially-conscious or eco-friendly gift, and almost one in two (41 per cent) agreed poorly chosen gifts contributed significantly to “the problem of waste during the festive season”.

“What this research is showing is Australians are still incredibly generous, they’re just becoming more conscious with their generosity,” Ms Evans said.

The surveys come at a time of weak economic growth in Australia.

The RBA recently downgraded its GDP growth forecast for 2019 from 2.4 to 2.25 per cent.

Wages growth in the 12 months to September fell to just 2.2 per cent – well below its historical average of 3 to 4 per cent a year.

And a pre-Christmas survey by Deloitte last week found retailers were bracing for the weakest Christmas shopping season since 2013.

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