Sky-high inflation is squeezing budgets this year – but that doesn’t mean Christmas won’t be a merry one.

60% of us plan to spend less on Christmas this year as soaring food and energy bills leave consumers with little cash to spare.

Half of us will save on buying presents and a third on social events like trips to the theatre or meals out, according to research from Yougov.

21% will also curb their travel plans this festive period, due in part to upcoming rail strikes in addition to rising costs.

As the cost of living crisis escalates, it’s no surprise that many will seek to cut costs this year. The UK’s inflation rate hit a 41-year high of 11.1% last month, and the government has confirmed the country is in an economic recession.

Food and energy bills have seen the highest increases, as supply chain issues and the ongoing war in Ukraine have pushed companies to up their prices.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement offered some support to struggling households in the form of one-off Cost of Living payouts, but many still face difficult spending decisions on a daily basis.

Half of England’s students are worried about the cost of living, and more than three quarters fear it will affect their academic success, according to research by the Office for National Statistics.

Presence over Presents

Despite these difficult circumstances, there’s still plenty of festive cheer in the air.

After three years in and out of lockdown, many are simply looking forward to spending quality time together this Christmas.

For Georgi Lopez, a medical student, family is coming first this year. “We’re not doing presents at all, just focusing on spending time together, maybe using the money saved to actually do something together after the ‘stressful season’ is well out of the way, like going to the theatre, dinner etc.

“It kind of means we’re taking away some of the pressure and focusing on xmas as an opportunity to spend quality time with the people closest, which might actually make it a bit more enjoyable.”

Family comes first this festive season (Getty Images)

Bartosz Romanek, a Journalism student, agrees. This will the first Christmas he spends with his partner in the UK after a recent move from Poland.

He admits this could potentially lead to ‘big spending’, but has some tips for cutting costs.

“I always try to re-use Christmas cards, or use the ones left over from previous years,” says Bartosz.

“I will also try to support local handmade small businesses as every year, in regards of buying Christmas decorations. That can save me some money and certainly help them.”

Kia Perryman recommends visiting local charity shops or getting online for unique presents without a hefty price tag.

“Buying second hand gifts from charity shops, Vinted or eBay can be more personal. It helps out people raising money – and it’s fun, too!”

“I acknowledge that looking through charity shops for decent gift can take time, but it supports a good cause and has a better impact on the environment.”

Festive fun for every budget

If you can’t afford the panto this year, there are still plenty of free events in Luton to get involved with.

From carol services at St. Mary’s church to Stockwood Park’s magical illuminated trail, there’s something for everybody – and every budget. You can find a full guide here.

Check out more ways to save this year in this handy video:

Personally… Why money worries won’t make me blue this Christmas

When I think back to the winter of 2020, it’s incredible how far we’ve come.

That year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to visit my mum in Cornwall. Five hours on a train with a mask shooting fearful glances at strangers in case they carried the coronavirus was a stressful and surreal experience, but I was one of the lucky ones. Several friends spent the day alone in halls, some of whom had contracted the virus and were self-isolating.

As the numbers of cases and fatalities crept ever skyward on the news, it was difficult to feel any ‘festive spirit’. I can smile now when I think of my mum opening and disinfecting her presents in a pair of Marigolds or waving at my friend and her new baby from the foot of her driveway, but I still recall the fear in the air and the sadness I felt at having to stay apart from so many that I loved.

Fast-forward two years and this Christmas is a special one for my family. My brother lives in Vietnam, where coronavirus restrictions have only recently been relaxed to allow him to travel to the UK. I’m excited to see him again, and relieved to be facing a maskless journey home this year.

The cost of living has been difficult for me these past few months. I moved into new accommodation in September, which has set me back financially, even after taking on a part-time job. I haven’t had the spare time or money to do much Christmas shopping, but luckily my family couldn’t care less about expensive gifts or fancy meals. This year, it’s all about rubbish movies, cheesy cracker jokes, and our Cornish tradition of mulled wine by the beach. Let’s hope it’s a good one.