Sinterklaas in expensive times: the stove stays off, there is still a budget for gifts

The white teddy bear, with a red, Christmas-like bow around his neck, probably needs to be washed in the washing machine first. But the stack of old Donald Ducks that Gessica Bearzatto has in her hands is going straight into the shoe tonight.

Bearzatto walks with a friend through a large thrift store in Rijswijk. On Saturday evening, her three children, all of primary school age, are allowed to put their shoes on one more time. Then they go to celebrate prom night.

The gifts on that evening will be a “mix” of new and second-hand, says the Dutch teacher. She finds the amount of gifts children receive around the holidays unbelievable. By also buying second-hand gifts, she hopes to make it a little more sustainable.

The fact that second-hand is also cheaper is much less important to her. Bearzatto has recently seen everything become more expensive, including her energy bill. “But I’m not giving up on anything yet. Although I save a little less now.”

At the thrift store, Gessica Bearzatto found a bear and old Donald Ducks.
Photo Mona van den Berg

Heating off

Many households are faced with higher fixed costs. Groceries, petrol, energy: everything has become more expensive in recent months. In November inflation was 11.2 percent.

The fixed energy contract, which still protected many people against excessively high energy prices, is ending in many households. It is expected that 90 percent of people will have a variable contract by the end of this year.

We are at the mercy of the energy gods

Zarife Orhan visitor Bijenkorf

Will these increased costs affect holiday shopping?

Astrid Jansen is standing in the thrift store with a glittery dress in her hand. She hasn’t had the heating on yet this fall, but that’s not the reason she’s shopping here today. At least you can still find clothes that are timeless at the thrift store, she says. “And you don’t pay the top price for it.” In her basket are more garments with glitter. “I like going to fantasy parties.”

Next weekend, Jansen will celebrate Sinterklaas with children and grandchildren. For the latter she has already received all the gifts, partly found at the thrift store. “If you clean it well, it’s fine. Kids don’t care.” Draws were made among the adults. The budget for those gifts is 20 euros. The fact that “everything has become more expensive” did play a role in determining that budget, says Jansen.

Bearzatto and Jansen didn’t really save on Sinterklaas or Christmas, but they certainly did on energy consumption.

Bearzatto: “We delayed turning on the heating as long as possible. And we put it lower.”

Jansen: “The heating stays off as long as possible. We have a wood stove, which helps. It sometimes turns on at night. That is of course less good for the environment, although we do use ‘clean’ wood. I also get warm when I go swimming or cycling.” She makes one exception for turning on the heating: when the grandchildren come.

Ruth Liebreks (r.) and daughter Milou shop in the Bijenkorf. “We are lucky, we still have a permanent energy contract.”
Photo Mona van den Berg

Winter sports

In the Bijenkorf in the center of The Hague, Milou Liebreks is out and about with her mother. The two come from Mierlo in Brabant and are spending a weekend in the royal city. Yesterday they saw the musical Alladintoday they are shopping, also for the holidays.

They drew lots with the family and supporters. At Christmas they will give presents. The budget this year is 30 euros per person. Did the increased costs play a role in this? Milou: “I still live at home, so no.” Mother Ruth: “We are lucky, because we have a permanent energy contract that does not expire until April.” The family does not have to leave things, she says. This winter, for example, they are all going on winter sports in Austria. This year, the wish lists included a lot of ski gear, says Ruth.

Zarife Orhan takes a look at the Christmas department of the Bijenkorf, but is actually here to pick out new shoes for her young daughter. She is standing next to her with step in her hand.

Orhan has already received the presents for Sinterklaas, Christmas is celebrated in the family with food but without presents. She set a budget in advance for the Sinterklaas gifts.

Orhan is “at the mercy of the energy gods,” she says. “We have a variable energy contract. The times we have turned on the heating can be counted on one hand. We do a lot with hot water bottles and thick socks.” It also helps that she lives in a flat, says Orhan. A little warmth from her downstairs neighbors still rises.

She will come back here after Christmas, says Orhan, that is a family tradition. “All Christmas items are then sold at a large discount.”