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Published 22 November 2023
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Do Advent Calendars Offer Value for Money or are They a Festive Rip-Off?

Advent calendars are big business this time of year with a vast array of well-known household brands creating a collection of goodies for us to open up each day in the build-up to Christmas – but are we spending more than we need to?

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It’s estimated that 16.5 million advent calendars are purchased in Britain each year, with big brands creating their own offerings to satisfy our demand for a daily festive treat in the build-up to Christmas, whether it’s chocolate, wine or your favourite skincare product.

Advent calendars are now much more than a treat bought for children, many consumers buy them as a gift for others as well as for themselves. One in three (35%) British adults admitted to having an advent calendar, either bought for them or purchased for themselves in a 2021 YouGov poll.

From the sold-out, at the time of writing, No7 and Charlotte Tilbury beauty advent calendars to the dependable Cadbury and supermarket own-brand chocolate-filled options found on shelves across the country and everything in between – how can we know which offers true value for money?

Do advent calendars offer value for money?

Making sure you know the value of items an advent calendar contains is the first step in determining how likely you are to make the most of it. Many premium calendars sold online list their contents and how much you could expect to pay if you bought those items separately. 

But consumers may not just be searching for savings, it’s also about seasonal excitement. “The value goes beyond the products themselves. Our customers love the added excitement, kicking off their day with a surprise,” said Lisa Cherry, lead Christmas buyer for John Lewis in an email to NerdWallet.

Gemma O’Dwyer, sales and marketing manager at Virgin Wines, agrees and emailed NerdWallet to say: “The best way to choose an advent calendar is selecting the advent [calendar] that will bring you the most joy. 

“Ultimately, advent calendars are meant to be fun and whether that’s a £1.50 chocolate countdown or a £300 high-end jewellery advent, pick the one that suits you best, that’s within budget and you’ll get worthwhile enjoyment from.”

While advent calendars are a seasonal indulgence that should put a smile on your face, we recommend setting yourself a budget, so consider putting a limit on how much you’re willing to spend. By only spending what you can afford, you’re much less likely to overstretch yourself during the holiday season.

O’Dwyer added: “The majority of our customers are those who treat themselves to an advent calendar each year and love doing so. It’s become a big part of their Christmas tradition, but a lower-cost advent or a countdown of another kind may be the tradition for someone else.

“If you’re spending a lot of money on an advent calendar, it’s worth considering if the products inside are things you would buy otherwise, outside of advent.” 

Regift to realise value

What happens if part of the advent calendar contains something you don’t like?

It could be a good opportunity to try something new, or even share your seasonal countdown to help realise value, according to O’Dwyer. “[An advent calendar] could easily be shared between two and bring shared enjoyment and something to bring people together over the countdown period,” she said.

As well as sharing the contents of your calendar, you can make the most of any items you may not use yourself by regifting them to others. “Of course, if there are a couple of options that aren’t for you, they can make great Christmas presents for others too,” added Cherry.

By regifting items you may not want or use in your advent calendar, you could save money on presents too.

For example, if you were to purchase the John Lewis Beauty Advent Calendar that costs £195 and features over £900 worth of products, not only could you have potential savings of £705 if you were to use all of the beauty products yourself, but if there’s an item you are unlikely to use, finding someone to wrap it up for could help to realise these savings – particularly if it is an item you may have bought as a gift for that person anyway. 

Virgin Wines confirmed that its £89.99 advent calendar contains £117.75 of wine, offering you a saving and another regifting opportunity. As well as this, advent calendars regularly include smaller sample sizes, enabling you to try new items without committing to purchasing a full-size version straight away. 

“The great thing about drinks advent calendars is they aren’t full-size bottles, so even if it’s a wine that the consumer may think they won’t like, we’d recommend trying it because you never know and might find you’re surprised and have a new favourite on your hands… It’s a great way to discover wines without having to spend a lot on a variety of full-sized bottles,” O’Dwyer explained.

If you do buy a calendar with a few items you know for sure you are unlikely to use, always look to regift. Whether that is to someone you know or to a local charity, recycling will always help to make your purchase more worthwhile. 

If you don’t overstretch yourself, make sure you’re making the most of what’s inside and regift where possible, advent calendars can make a great seasonal purchase.

Image source: Getty Images

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