For many families, Christmas is the most expensive time of the year. So, when one mom-of-four came up with a clever idea to save some money, she decided to share her idea with the world. However, it turned out that not everyone agreed with her suggestion.
Gemma Andrews lives in the U.K. with her partner and her four children. And in 2017 Andrews’ family was about to grow even larger. That’s because the school teacher was expecting her fifth child.
Needless to say, Andrews enjoys having a full house. That’s probably why she has volunteered to host Christmas Day dinner at her home for a whole decade. Another reason the expectant mom didn’t mind cooking was because it allowed her to manage her son’s food allergies.
Nonetheless, cooking for as many as 16 family members and friends has not always been easy. In fact, the very first year that Andrews opened her home, five people didn’t turn up. Their absence, Andrews said, left her out of pocket on what was already an extremely expensive meal.
Consequently, the year after, Andrews tried a different approach. She asked those attending on Christmas Day to each bring a dish. Her guests gave her a load of excuses, however, and once again she ended up footing the bill.
As a result, Andrews chose to introduce a controversial policy in the years that followed. If people wanted to attend her Christmas meal, they would have to pay. At first, she charged $13 per head, but Andrews now asks guests for $40.
Andrews’ unconventional approach proved so controversial that she even appeared on television to defend herself. When her host pointed out that her price rises weren’t in line with inflation, she said that as her family had gotten older, she needed more alcohol for them to drink. And she added that there were also more children to feed, who get a place at the table for free.
According to Evolution Money, the average cost of hosting an average Christmas dinner in the U.K. is £161. In American terms, that’s roughly $216 dollars for turkey and all the trimmings. Of course, that doesn’t even take into account the amount already spent on gifts.
In 2016 Investopedia predicted that the average American would spend $929 on gifts that coming Christmas. With that in mind, budgets can become pretty stretched over the festive season. So, perhaps contributing $40 towards your host’s food costs isn’t such an outrageous idea after all.
Andrews certainly didn’t think so. On the contrary, she felt that the price was quite reasonable for the level of festivities that she was putting on. Defending her stance on British breakfast TV show This Morning in December 2017, she said, “Everyone gets a present. It’s literally open house. People come at 10:00 a.m. and leave at 10:00 p.m.”
Not everyone agreed that Andrews’ arrangement was so generous, however. For instance, fellow This Morning contributor Kathy Lette called the teacher a “scrooge” for making her family pay. And it appeared that many of the show’s viewers agreed.
“Would I ever charge my family to come round for Christmas day? Not on your nelly! It’s just rude. Don’t invite people if you’re wanting money for it,” one incensed viewer tweeted. “We’ve done it two years in a row and enjoy having my family round. Especially my nephew.”
“Pure greed! She’s lost the plot. Charging £30 per family member. No just no,” another viewer wrote. Meanwhile, someone else added, “What a disgrace! Charging for Christmas dinner! This woman is obviously making a profit. I’d rather go out and pay £100.”
Andrews countered that she wasn’t forcing anyone to pay. She pointed out that if her family members didn’t wish to cough up the fee, then they didn’t have to come. And Andrews added that her partner’s grandparents were always in attendance, since they’d otherwise spend Christmas alone.
Despite viewers’ continued protests, however, Andrews then claimed that her loved ones have never had a problem with paying. “No one’s ever had any issue. It started off with their suggestion, actually,” she said. “Because I have to control what’s in the cooking, my grandparents-in-law turned around and said, ‘Well, how about I just give you the money?’”
By agreeing to take care of the big day, Andrews claimed that she takes the stress off her loved ones. “There’s no effort involved for my family,” she explained. “Two of my guests actually work Christmas Day. They don’t have time to make me anything to bring. So, they bring themselves.”
After listening to Andrews speak, This Morning host Phillip Schofield came to her defense. “For me, I think with you and your family, you’ve come to an arrangement that suits everybody,” he said.
“So, it’s not for anyone to judge how you decide you’re going to fund your Christmas. It is an incredibly expensive time,” Schofield added. “I think good on you. You’ve come to an arrangement, you’ve worked out a way that no one is offended. Everybody’s happy.”
Schofield wasn’t the only one to come to Andrews’ defense, moreover. “This lady is so lovely,” one viewer gushed. “She obviously makes Christmas special for her family and goes to a lot of effort! Damn right her family should give her some money.”
Another viewer thought that the whole debate surrounding Andrews’ Christmas Day missed the point completely. They wrote, “If her family are willing to pay, then it is a joint agreement in my eyes. It’s very expensive, and not everyone can afford to be so extravagant. They spend Christmas together, which is the important thing. Good luck to them and Merry Christmas.”