Public Eye (South Africa)

Tough times fails to dampen Christmas cheer

- Prashalan Govender

Despite the challengin­g economy and stretched budgets, families are determined to enjoy the festivitie­s and spend time together this Christmas.

With the price of basic food staples as well as traditiona­l Christmas essentials increasing sharply since November, many residents are opting for smaller celebratio­ns and less pressure on gifting and not travelling as far this festive season.

Stats SA’S recent report revealed that the prices for most Christmas essentials have seen double-digit percentage increases from November last year. These include milk, eggs and cheese (13.9%), fruit (11.5%), vegetables (23.5%) and sugar-rich foods (18.5%). Other items in high demand during Christmas have also gone up – wine has increased by 7.1%, bread and cereal prices have grown by 8.5% and meat prices have escalated by 3.5%.

According to the Bureau for Food and Agricultur­al Policy (BFAP), the sharp food price increases can be attributed to rolling blackouts, high global food commodity prices, a weak local currency, rising costs in value chains (marketing, wages and other costs involved in creating a product/service) and infrastruc­ture challenges.

Residents who spoke to Public Eye have found creative ways to keep the festive spirit alive this Christmas while on a tight budget.

Eddie and Shusila Nelson said that this year, they bought a quarter of what they normally buy for the same amount of money, but were happy that they were still able to do their Christmas shopping.

“We are very grateful to our children. Without our children's financial support we would not have been able to do our Christmas shopping," said the Nelson’s, who are pensioners.

Kathy Selbourne said she and her family are doing a budget secret Santa so that they can continue to give gifts this year.

"We are all planning on spending approximat­ely R50 per gift. The reason for the small amount is because we want people to be creative and have fun with their gifts. For example, I picked my brother-in-law and he loves pickle, so I will be buying him extra-hot pickle," she said.

Seema Pillay said she normally buys a lot of cakes, biscuits and other sweet items which she distribute­s to family members on Christmas day. This year, in an effort to cut costs, Pillay will be making the sweet items herself. She said that she bought all the ingredient­s needed for baking on Black Friday when much of the ingredient­s were on special and still plans on distributi­ng the items on Christmas day when she sees her family.

Tracy Gormin said that for Christmas, she and two other families will be coming together. Each family has been assigned a meat and a side dish and they will all come together and share what they have made.

Jordyn Smith said she has started making her own Christmas decoration­s to cut costs.

"DIY Christmas decor is is a fun, cost-effective alternativ­e that really adds more significan­ce to Christmas decor," Smith said.

"There is wealth of free tutorials online and on Pinterest.

They also make great Christmas gifts and are a more meaningful way of still celebratin­g and revelling in festive cheer," she added.

Remona van Der Byl said she no longer goes out of her way to buy a new

Christmas outfit. Her family has also started doing a secret Santa instead of buying gifts for every person.

"With large family gatherings, each family contribute­s one or two dishes, which helps cut the costs of the meal,with a variety of dishes and less wastage.

"Picnics and ice cream is also a fun alternativ­e for a festive summer season," she said.

Sanelisiwe Dladla said she has cut costs by not travelling long distances to see family members this Christmas. "It is a bit sad not to be able to see them, but cutting out the expenses of travelling is a great saving."

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