Festive season a tough time

ANGELA CUMING AND SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012

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An investigation into the cost of the items that make up the traditional Christmas lunch - turkey, ham, wine, etc - has found prices have in most cases doubled in the past decade.

While on paper the rise in the cost of living - 0.8 per cent - is at a 13-year low, price research makes for grim reading as the festive season approaches.

We found big increases in the cost of the ingredients for an average Christmas dinner.

Taking individual items and comparing their prices to those of 2002 shows a traditional meat-and-three-veg meal is moving increasingly out of the reach of many struggling families.

Where a turkey could be bought for under $50 in 2002, this year it would cost between $85 and $130 to ensure the centrepiece of the festive table was in place.

Staples such frozen peas, potatoes and bread on the Times' shopping list have in some cases doubled in the last decade, while the humble Kumara has tripled in price.

A seafood starter is also looking increasingly a thing of the past for anyone others than those with the wherewithal to catch it themselves.

A store-bought crayfish is currently retailing at $66, more than double the $30 of a decade ago.

And scallop prices appear to be heading in the same direction.

But it is not all bad news this Christmas.

While the cost of food and drink has headed nowhere but up for the last decade the likes of televisions and cameras have plummeted as the low kiwi dollar and cut throat retail environment sees consumers paying a fraction of what they did for a comparable item a decade ago.

The consumer price index puts the cost of telecommunications down 24 per cent and electronics dropping 18 per cent.

An Awa brand 29-inch tube type TV and DVD combo that went for $1300 in 2002 is no longer on the market but a Sony 32-inch flat screen LED TV is on offer at $699. A camcorder that cost $1699 for the pleasure of battling tapes and discs has been replaced by a hard disc model at under $300.

One academic who has studied consumer's changing attitudes to the festive season, has noticed a trend of less money being spent on token gifts in favour of people making a conscious decision to devote more time reconnecting with friends and family.

PhD student Nane Fifita from the University of Auckland Business School's Department of Marketing, said there was a detectable backlash to saturation Christmas advertising.

"For a long time Christmas was all about giving expensive presents but I found a lot of people are reclaiming Christmas back from the retailers and making it about spending time with loved ones.

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"I think people were getting sick of seeing shops filled with Christmas stuff from October and decided to make the season about something that was important to them."

She believed that was why many retailers had moved to selling gift cards, as they could see people were shying away from buying "big, expensive, but ultimately worthless presents".

Hamilton mum Pania Broughton and daughter Tiapania, 5, were among those learning to save over Christmas at the annual Western Community Low Cost Living Christmas Expo.

They said they would much rather have a good Christmas dinner over the latest gadgets.

"I'd much rather have a kai than all the technology and gadgets.

"We'll just kick back and relax, have a roast and a swim, and that's it."

- Waikato Times

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