December 2008: Will you be changing your Christmas spending this year?

Thanks to everyone who replied to my latest e-consultation; I received well over 200 replies.

My question was:

Will you be changing your Christmas spending this year?

  • 41% said ‘less’
  • 56% said ‘same’
  • 4% said ‘more’

Of those who replied ‘less’, many reasons were given – most commonly uncertainty about their future income, recent job loss or general anxiety about the credit crunch. Most of those who reported that they would be spending the same also said that they would be spending their money more carefully to make it go further by taking advantage of discounts and shopping online. Those who said they would be spending more cited personal reasons such as the birth of a child or grandchild, or a promotion at work as the reason for increasing their spending.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the ways in which you will be saving money over the festive season – quite a few respondents said that they will be making presents this year rather than buying them.

Despite the results showing the clear impact of the economic downturn, the good news is that the secret to a happy Christmas is not how much we spend. According to research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the things that make us happier at Christmas are spending time with friends and family, eating and drinking well and for some, engaging in religious activities.

Perhaps surprisingly, the research shows that the more people spend and receive, the less happy they tend to be. So spending more doesn’t make us happier and a Merry Christmas need not cost the Earth.

In Parliament I have been exploring the issue of whether money brings us happiness, and therefore whether Government should focus on GDP as the sole measure of our society’s progress. I led a debate on this topic earlier this year, which you can read here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2008-06-11b.127.0

The inadequacy of GDP as a measure was summed up perfectly back in 1968 by Robert Kennedy: “This does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

So I hope that despite the credit crunch and bleak economic outlook, you will have a restful and joyful festive period, and enjoy spending time with loved ones.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jo Swinson

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