New Zealand's love affair with the Christmas hamper has continued in 2008.
Tens of thousands of hampers, paid off with weekly repayments, have been delivered to homes across the country since the end of November.
But a consumer watchdog organisation is telling the public to shop around before committing to a Christmas hamper scheme in 2009.
Consumer New Zealand's chief executive, Sue Chetwin, says its own surveys show Christmas hamper schemes are an expensive way to buy groceries.
Auckland budget adviser Darryl Evans, who is chief executive of Mangere Budgeting and Family Support Services, says people do not realise the true cost of the various hamper schemes. He says they can be marked up as much as 300%.
He is calling on the public, especially low-income families, to steer clear of Christmas hamper companies next year. He says people are better served by putting their money in schemes run by banks and credit unions, which pay a return on the money invested.
However, the Chrisco company says its customers believe it is a great way to avoid a budget blowout at the end of the year.
Chrisco delivered about 200,000 boxes of goods this year. A spokesperson, Sandra Shilham, says the company's clients are happy with the service provided.