With inflation at a 14-year high, Irish consumers are facing one of their priciest Christmases yet. Prices in Ireland rose by 5.1pc year-on-year in October — the highest level since the boom years. In some areas, the rate of inflation is even higher — the price of flights and home heating oil has almost doubled. “Anything over 3pc inflation starts to create problems,” said economist Jim Power.
lthough some expect high inflation to taper off in time, these record prices have kicked in just ahead of the Christmas rush — pushing up the cost of the festive season and putting many under huge financial pressure.
So what can you expect to pay more for this Christmas — and how might you avoid the worst of rising prices over the festive season?
1 Turkey and ham
You could pay 5pc or 6pc more for your turkey or ham this Christmas than last year because of the rising costs faced by producers, according to Dave Lang, head of development at Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland. “Energy costs have gone through the roof,” said Lang. “Refrigeration costs have gone up too — as has the price of feed for turkeys and pigs.”
Some of these higher input costs will make their way through to the prices consumers pay for their food. “Locally, growers are seeing turkey feed prices up about 20pc year-on-year,” said Kieran Rumley, executive director of Love Irish Food. “These growers will have got chicks in from June — and they’ll have to recover the cost.”
A shortage of labour in the UK could also see Irish consumers pay more for fresh turkeys. “In the UK, the slaughtering side of the business is being hampered by lack of labour — that’s leading to a shortage of poultry in the UK, specifically turkey,” said Rumley. “That will feed through to [the availability of] frozen turkeys here and fuel demand for home-grown turkeys.”
You can expect to pay around €60 and upwards for a 7kg fresh whole turkey (which should be plenty to feed a family of six for two days) this year, depending on the type of turkey and where you’re buying it from. You’ll usually pay more for a Bronze (referring to the breed), organic or free-range turkey.
A 6kg organic turkey from an organic farm could set you back €100, for example, while a 7kg free-range Bronze turkey could cost €80 to €95. From December 19, you can buy a 5kg fresh free-range turkey from Dunnes Stores for €40.
To cut down on the price of your Christmas dinner, don’t buy more turkey, ham or veg than you need.
“You don’t need to buy a whole turkey — you could just buy 2kg of turkey breast [depending on how many you’re feeding],” said Lang. “You don’t have to buy a whole ham either — buy half a ham or a corner of ham and so on.”
A frozen turkey is another option if trying to keep costs down.
Go easy on the turkey sandwiches on Christmas night and St Stephen’s Day too: bread prices jumped 4pc in the year to October — one of the highest inflation rates recorded for food that month.
2 Cranberry sauce
“Condiments like ham glaze, cranberry sauce and so on could be more expensive this year,” said Lumley. “A lot of these items come in from the UK and will be strongly impacted by Brexit, so there could be extra charges.”
Remember you don’t have to buy a jar of ham glaze — you can make your own ham glaze very cheaply and easily.
Shopping locally can help you avoid Brexit charges. “A lot of retailers have switched to locally produced products,” said Rumley. “Shoppers buying traditional Christmas items in supermarkets today will find differences in the brands on the shelves, more local products and for items imported, pricier products.”
Confectionery imported from the UK could prove pricier this year. “For retailers bringing in confectionery [from the UK], there will be additional costs associated with that — especially if confectionery is being brought in early as it will need to be warehoused, though retailers will try to offset these additional costs through efficiencies elsewhere,” said Rumley.
4 Christmas stamps
The cost of sending a Christmas card overseas has almost doubled over the last six years. In Christmas 2015, it cost €1.05 to post a Christmas card abroad — today, it costs €2. It costs €1.10c to post a Christmas card within Ireland today — up from 70c in 2015. Time for virtual Christmas cards perhaps?
5 Flying to the relatives
You’ll likely pay through the nose to fly abroad to visit relatives this Christmas — the price of flights jumped by about 72pc in the year to October, according to the CSO.
6 Christmas trees
The ongoing global supply chain issues could see you pay more for an artificial Christmas tree this year than last. A shortage of artificial trees from Asia — as well as a big jump in the cost of transporting them here — is pushing up the prices of some artificial trees by almost 50pc, according to some vendors.
Consider buying a real Christmas tree instead — you may even get one for the same price as last year.
“We took a decision not to put up the prices of our trees,” said Christy Kavanagh, who runs Kavanagh Christmas Trees in Dublin and Wicklow. “There’s no shortage of real trees this year.” Sales of real Christmas trees are up 10pc on last year, according to Kavanagh — who attributed the increased demand to a desire among people to buy locally and sustainably.
Some of the most popular types of real Christmas trees are the Noble Fir and Nordmann Fir, according to Kavanagh. You’ll pay between €50 and €70 for either of these trees at Kavanagh Christmas Trees, depending on whether you’re buying a five-foot, six-foot or seven-foot tree. By comparison, you’ll often easily pay €150 for a seven-foot artificial tree in a shop — though assuming you reuse the artificial tree, you might never need to buy another one.
7 Trip to Santa
A visit to Santa could cost a family of five more than €100 this year — and the cost of some of the more popular Santa ‘experiences’ have increased in recent years.
For example, a trip to Santa in Christmas Island in Wicklow cost €59.50 (including a €1.50 booking fee) in 2015 for a family of two adults, two children and a baby less than six-months-old. Today, such a family would pay €100.95 (including €4.95 booking fee) to visit Santa in Christmas Island.
It costs between €23.95 and €26.95 per child (aged one plus) and between €14.95 and €17.95 per adult to visit Santa in Rathwood in Carlow this year. In 2015, it cost €15 per child and €10 per adult.
8 Warm home
Everyone likes to be cosy at Christmas — however, with the price of home heating oil up a staggering 71pc in the year to October, you’ll think twice about turning on the heating this Christmas if you rely on kerosene to heat your home. There have also been big price hikes in natural gas, solid fuels and electricity over the last year.
9 Christmas tipple
Go easy pouring the wine over Christmas dinner this year — prices are up about 3pc over the last year. Spirit prices are up too.
10 Meals out & hotel stays
The jury’s out on whether Ireland could face another lockdown in the coming weeks — if it does, hotel stays and Christmas meals may not happen. Even if Covid doesn’t disrupt such plans, meals out and hotel stays will likely be pricier.
“Hotel accommodation and eating out in restaurants have already become more expensive since these services opened up again after the pandemic,” said economist Alan McQuaid. “I expect that trend to continue well into next year.”
A Pricier New Year?
Consumers are likely to be battling with higher prices well beyond Christmas.
“Holidays, whether it is home or abroad, will be dearer in 2022 than in 2021,” said McQuaid.
Irish people are likely to pay more for rent, houses, cars and public services (such as health and education) in 2022, according to Power. The price of the weekly shop could creep up further too.
“Food price inflation has been very subdued for decades but this could change due to Brexit, higher costs of food production, and climate change impacts on the food supply chain,” said Power.
Energy prices have been a major driver of rising inflation — and there is huge uncertainty around the direction of energy prices.
“There are tentative signs that we may be close to the peak of the current bout of energy price inflation,” said Simon Barry, chief economist with Ulster Bank.
Tighter monetary policy — such as an increase in interest rates — will probably be needed to bring inflation under control, according to McQuaid. Central banks have so far been reluctant to raise interest rates because doing so could damage the economic recovery.
However, there could be worse to come if central banks don’t act.
“A bout of stagflation — a situation where the economy is stagnant and unemployment is rising and at the same time prices are rising — cannot be entirely ruled out in my view,” warned McQuaid.
Perhaps surging inflation has set the scene for a perfect storm in 2022. Let’s hope not.