How inflation is dictating our Christmas gifts in 2022

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For a holiday so deeply intertwined with consumerism, the seemingly unstoppable rise of prices of goods and services is causing financial strain on Filipinos.

Chocolates and Marks & Spencer digestive cookies are so pre-2022 Christmases. Theresa Maymay, an associate manager at a top IT firm and my fellow chorister, is ditching traditional gifts for a far more radical choice: shallots.

The onion’s botanical variety, after all, has become somewhat of a luxury product with the red onion’s recent astronomical price increase. “Sinabi ko sa pinsan ko. Sabi niya di niya tatanggihan kasi nga ang mahal, ‘di ba?” she shared in between our holiday gigs. The only thing stopping her now is supply. A few nights ago, she found she could only check out 1,500 grams.

For a holiday so deeply intertwined with consumerism, the seemingly unstoppable rise of prices of goods and services is causing financial strain on Filipinos. A study by Ipsos revealed that 63% of Filipinos expect their stress about price increases to increase this holiday versus last year’s. “To compensate for rising costs,” the market research firm wrote in a release, “consumers in all regions are going to make some budget cuts with many reducing spend on holiday decorations, food and beverages, gifts and even charitable donations.”

In an informal survey of the followers of my Instagram account @MissChiefEditor — a cohort of 18- to 34-year-old followers, who are mostly students or young professionals based in Metro Manila — majority admitted to be cutting down on gifting.

The art of budgeting

“Hirap, mahal lahat,” said @ferdigero. “Gifts are only truly for those I deeply care about.”

“Need to lessen the people on my list (especially relatives),” chimed @madz.manapat.

A few people have honed their budgeting down to a precise art.

@ellaong is cutting her list down to an exact number: “It’s like wedding planning. Set a budget and list the top 30 only. Just be intentional.”

@owem_gee’s family will be limiting their gifts to a Secret Santa gift exchange so “we don’t need to buy gifts for all.”

Meanwhile, @monopewpew will not give gifts beyond ₱300. So far she has purchased essentials: alcohol, hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, masks, handmade soap bars. “We can’t be too careful, especially now that a lot of places are opening up and wearing masks is voluntary na.”

@potato_panda_adce is also getting creative with her student budget: “Everyone gets socks.” Specifically, “generic three-pack ones from Daiso with patterns best suited to whichever family member.”

Intention is a recurring theme for this set, with many opting to shop small, buy local and choose environment-friendly products.

“Stocking stuffers have no place in a world that’s supposed to curb its GHG emissions,” said @ithinkimpolin. Meanwhile, @patriciaaquino doesn’t find it wrong to regift.

Not material things

For people whose love language is giving gifts, making purchases tends to be non-negotiable. But in this economy, people who are more moved by quality time or acts of service should get away with intangibles.

“Figure out muna kung ano love language ng loved one. Baka hindi receiving gifts,” said @heyjerson, following his response up with a hashtag: #ligtas.

@_issavee, @isawgirl, @doxie05 and @danielleuyy are among those who are deliberately avoiding gifts, but will be treating their respective loved ones to “experiences” such as coffee dates or gatherings over a nice meal. “I’ve built this reputation of being stingy so no expectations from friends,” said @danielleuy. “So I prefer to spend time with them than give gifts. Less waste too!”

But even that costs money. “As a breadwinner, I saved my earnings so our fam can have a festive salu-salo,” said @glendamariecastro. “Tiring though.”

“Quality time na lang muna,” said @achinthebox.

After all, in a world facing a looming recession, where people need to hustle extra, time is the ultimate luxury.