ALTHOUGH families across Europe are preparing to tighten their belts this Christmas the French are getting set to spend more.
A study has shown that the average Christmas budget across Europe will be down 0.8% - with families expecting to spend €591. In France, families expect to spend 0.7% more this year - with an average of €639 jingling the tills.
Polling group Deloitte found that the effects of the Euro crisis were being felt in Santa's stocking with tightest pursestrings in Greece, where spending will fall 16.2%, followed by a 13.5% fall in Portugal and in Spain where families will spend 3.9% less.
Similarly, countries faring not so badly are celebrating by splashing out a bit more: Germans are expecting spending to rise 7% - but only to €485 - while the Swiss will spend €817, or 4.2% more.
French families are following the trend from last year where they increased spending and for the 2012 end of year celebrations will spend an extra 1.2% on presents - with 52% of that for children.
A separate study for toy distributors La Grande Récré found that parents are set to spend an average of €116.75 per child - €16.57 more than in 2011.
Families in the Deloitte study - which covered 18,500 people across Europe - said they were prepared to spend to "give pleasure" but 53% of them admitted that they were still keeping an eye on prices. Only 10% said price did not matter.
Nearly half of families said that they did a lot of research on the internet to find the best prices and four out of five said they had set a maximum spending limit.
In all, 91% said they wanted to spend on "useful presents" for adults and educational presents for youngsters.
After being left behind in the switch to e-readers and tablet computers, books are the No1 present in France this year ahead of chocolate and perfume. Last year they were 10th on the list. The same trend towards books is seen in 14 of the 18 countries polled.
Deloitte France consumer business manager Stéphane Rimbeuf said books were the ideal present: "They do not cost a lot, are personal gifts and allow people a little escape."
The survey found that adults across Europe are easy to buy presents for ... don't; they prefer money.
Photo: Jonathan G Meath