Even the poorest families will splash out at least £182 on Christmas because of commercial pressure, according to a report.
Low-income families with two children will spend two-thirds less than the average family, but it still won't come cheap.
Charity Family Action says most UK families will spend between £530 and £682 on gifts, decorations, food and drink.
The report, Breaking the Bank: A Cut-Price Christmas, quizzed 22 families who use the charity's services.
They said they would spend:
£34.25 on food and drink
£113.43 on gifts
£28 on decorations
£6.32 on cards
But many said they felt pressure to buy gifts for their children that were far more expensive than they could afford, blaming pressure from retailers, the media and older children's expectations of electronic goods like MP3 players, mobile phones and branded items.
"The older ones, they're all wanting mobile phones or the laptops and you haven't got the money for that," one parent said.
"Mine, she wants a toy from X and it costs £40. She shows me on the TV every day, when they show advertisements. She just points with her finger. 'Mum, can you buy me this for Christmas?"' said another.
The report says: "A Cut-Price Christmas highlights the challenge of being a parent on a low income: not wanting to crush your kid's sense of fun but not being able to escape the reality of up-to-the wire budgeting and debt."
A lone parent with two children aged eight and 12 is likely to receive £209.49 per week in benefits if they are not working.
How much will you be spending this Christmas?
If you're on a budget, have a look at our stocking filller ideas for all ages below...
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