Should you charge your guests for Christmas dinner? How to handle the festive dilemma

Family sat round a Christmas dinner, handing around food. (Getty Images)
Are you hosting Christmas this year but worried about the costs? (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

It feels like we need Christmas more than ever this year, to distract us from sky-rocketing bills and soaring inflation.

On the other hand, if you’re hosting the big day this year, then the cost of both food and energy means it could get very pricey. Which is why a growing number of people plan to ask their family, friends and other guests to help pay for their Christmas dinner.

“With the cost of living increasing, Christmas this year will be even more expensive than normally,” acknowledges Elle McAtamney, spokesperson for website TopCashback. “Brits will need to find additional funds to be able to pay for things that perhaps hadn’t been a major concern in previous years – such as higher energy bills.”

Their research suggests that over two-thirds of Brits are worried about the cost of Christmas this year, and 5% of people who are hosting the big day intend to charge their friends and relatives in some capacity.

Read more: Professional gift wrapper who gets paid up to £9.50 a present shares her tips and tricks for Christmas

“More people may be considering asking guests to contribute because they simply won’t be able to afford to host otherwise, or may even get themselves into financial difficulties post-Christmas," adds McAtamney.

And this isn’t the only survey to find that a small but growing number of people want their guests to share the burden.

For example, Instaprint surveyed 2,000 people and found that 38% say they will be trying to cut the cost of food and drink this year by tightening the budget or asking their guests for a monetary contribution.

The cost of a very merry Christmas

Man shopping in supermarket. (Getty Images)
You could consider cutting back your own shopping budget or ask everyone to bring a dish. (Getty Images) (Jonathan Kirn via Getty Images)

Even in a normal year, hosting Christmas can be a real financial pressure. The average household spends almost 30% more in December than in a typical month, according to the Bank of England. That’s around £740 more for the typical household.

Despite that, not everyone is convinced that the rising cost of living means it’s time to ask guests to pay for entry.

“Inflation may be sending the cost of the annual turkey, trimmings and pud sky-high, but that doesn’t mean you need to become the family Scrooge!” says Rajan Lakhani, from smart money app Plum.

Read more: Sustainable Christmas gift guide: 11 unique eco-friendly present ideas

He suggests cutting back the budget so that it’s affordable for you rather than asking loved ones to stump up.

“If you’re still looking aghast at your Christmas menu after budgeting, it may be that you can have an honest conversation with your guests about sharing the load. But Christmas is all about giving so you might want to stop short of asking your loved ones for cash outright," advises Lakhani.

"A more diplomatic way of reducing costs could be to suggest that each attendee brings a dish. Then everyone can choose their own contribution, rather than asking for a set amount of money that not everyone may agree with.”

Charging Christmas guests can be awkward

Family enjoying Christmas dinner at home, handing present to kid at the table. (Getty Images)
There are ways to save on money without having to ask outright, like agreeing to give presents to just the kids. (Getty Images) (Kiwis via Getty Images)

Maybe more of us would try charging guests if it wasn’t so awkward, but there is this age-old idea that Christmas should be a time of plenty and that the host should overwhelm their guests with turkey, wine and those big tubs of Twiglets you can only get in December.

So how can people feeling the pinch bring it up?

“You could begin by discussing Christmas present plans,” suggests McAtamney. “Regardless of current circumstances, people are usually open to cutting back on gift-giving or agreeing to keep it just for the kids, for example.

Read more: Britain's oldest Christmas tree lights have been switched on for the 54th consecutive year by loving dad

"This could open up the conversation wider to discussing other costs associated with hosting. Again, it’s better to be open about it sooner rather than over the dinner table. Leave the drama to the Eastenders special.

“If it was the other way around and a loved one asked you for a contribution, you’d hopefully understand. Remember it’s better to have an awkward conversation, than have money worries during what is supposed to be a joyous time of year."

What do the etiquette experts say?

Family happy and enjoying Christmas dinner. (Getty Images)
Ask guests for a contribution before you're sat round the dinner table. (Getty Images) (monkeybusinessimages via Getty Images)

Okay, we’ve talked to the money experts and we’ve looked at the finances but is it really okay to ask guests to pay?

We asked one of the country’s foremost experts: William Hanson, etiquette coach and director of The English Manner.

“Asking your guests to contribute financially to the Christmas meal is fine, so long as you do this well in advance and before they have accepted the invitation officially," he says.

"It's very bad form to coax people with an invitation to your house and then a few days later announce it's £10 a head, for example; even worse to announce this after the food's been cleared.”

But if you still find that just too awkward then there’s the option favoured by Lakhani: a shared table alternative that achieves the same result.

Hanson suggests: “Rather than getting the money from guests by inelegant cash or – the baby Jesus forfend – card reader, it's better to ask guests to bring a specific thing: 'Helen's bringing the sprouts, carrots and potatoes; Mark is taking care of the Christmas pudding', for example.”

So there you have it, we’re all feeling the pinch and it’s absolutely fine to ask guests to help but a card reader at the Christmas table is never appropriate. Merry Christmas.

Watch: Cheapest supermarket to buy your Christmas dinner: 10 festive foods ranked in price