Ah, another year come and gone. Many people are looking ahead to the new year with hope, while others are simply happy to say goodbye to the old one. But whether 2017 was kind or cruel, one thing is for sure: New Year’s Eve will be one of the most celebrated nights of the year.
It may not be as beloved as Christmas, Halloween and the Fourth of July, but ringing in the New Year does come with traditions and revelry for billions of people around the world, from fine dining to fireworks, from concerts to confetti, from travel to the Times Square ball making its illustrious descent at the stroke of 12:00.
None of that comes cheap, and it’s not just that fireworks are expensive. Restaurants, hotels, airlines, Ubers and even babysitters all jack up their prices for the occasion.
Consumers who are committed to starting their year with a night they’ll never forget (or a night they’ll never remember) can easily spend more than $1,000 to attend a major event like the ones in New York, London and Sydney, Australia, which is the first major city to see the dawn of the new year.
Yet, according to personal finance website WalletHub, nearly half of Americans said they are planning to celebrate the holiday at home, 18 percent plan to enjoy it at a friend’s house and 23 percent will forego the festivities altogether. Only 9 percent of Americans said they were going to a bar, restaurant or organized event.
Is the expense really worth it? And just how much does it cost to cater to that 9 percent, anyway? Here are a few numbers that may surprise you.
The Times Square Ball
Watching the illuminated ball descend in Times Square in New York City has been a tradition for more than 100 years — so, naturally, the ball has been through a few different iterations. The original weighed 700 pounds and was made of wood and iron, featuring 100 lights.
There have been seven balls since then, with the current one introduced in 2008. Today’s ball is 12 feet in diameter and weighs almost 12,000 pounds. It’s about as big as an SUV.
Constructed out of lightweight aluminum and fine crystal — making it the only fine crystal outdoor installation anywhere in the world — the ball features 2,688 Waterford Crystal panels and is illuminated by more than 32,000 LED lights, which can generate more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns.
Granted, the massive crystalline installation stays up year-round now, which trims some transportation and storage expenses, but it is still necessary to replace approximately 200 crystal panels each year, and the ball has had to undergo wind tunnel testing to ensure it won’t be ruined by the elements.
Jim O’Leary, Waterford Crystal's director of design, said the ball itself is valued at way over $1 million — not to mention lighting and labor costs for building, servicing and deploying the ball each year. But to him, the true value is simply getting to participate in the event.
Pyrotechnics are a popular way to welcome in the new year all over the globe, but big booms cost big bucks. How big? Here are a few of the world’s best and brightest New Years fireworks displays and what they cost.
London’s epic 11-minute display features 400 different types of fireworks and 10,000 explosions fired from the London Eye, three barges and 14 pontoons, all against the iconic backdrop of Big Ben and the London Eye and set to a mashup track of the year’s hottest tunes. The show costs £1.8 million ($2,435,058 USD) to put on.
Australia, being the first country to welcome the new year, outdoes London by firing 11,000 aerial shells and 40,000 comets and mines from the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and a fleet of barges. It costs $7.2 million Australian dollars ($5,623,920 USD) to pull off. The event contributes $133 million AUD ($103,886,300 USD) to the local economy through local, interstate and overseas visitors, though. Sounds like the investment is worth it.
Dubai broke the Guinness world record for world’s largest pyrotechnic display in 2014 when it fired 500,000 fireworks from the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, over the course of six minutes. The show also went down as the world’s most expensive fireworks display, costing close to $6 million USD to execute.
Meanwhile, other major cities are giving these legends a run for their money. Paris, Rio, Edinburgh, Madeira, Las Vegas and Hong Kong also put a pretty penny into lighting up the skies to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new.
Whether traveling overseas or just across the street for dinner, consumers are going to pay more if they want to do it on New Year’s Eve.
Flying to certain destinations can cost as much as 200 percent more, according to the Telegraph. New Year’s hotspots like Dubai and New York City see the biggest increase. However, longer-distance flights may go down in price, since few people would travel so far just to celebrate a single evening.
Keeping it local also has its surge pricing if consumers want to catch a Lyft or Uber home, but who wants to drive after a night on the town? Drunk driving is a major issue on New Year’s Eve, and it certainly makes sense to call a driver — but, unfortunately, everyone else agrees, and the demand can send ride prices soaring to two and three times their average rate.
So, maybe it’s smarter just to stay in the city and get home in the morning when the trains are running, right? Wrong. Booking a room can cost around 87 percent more than an average night, even if consumers try to take the cost-effective route and plan their accommodations through sites like Airbnb. It seems the average Airbnb homeowner has a shrewd sense of supply and demand.
The same could be said for babysitters, many of whom charge double for the night — at least if they are accepting jobs through a platform like Sitters.co.uk, an online childcare director for parents in the U.K. Urbansitter, a similar platform in the U.S., quotes an everyday rate of about $15 per hour, while that charge rises to $18 per hour on New Year’s — higher for multiple kids.
Since the whole point of New Year’s Eve is to celebrate at midnight, it’s safe to say parents are looking at several hours of care and a solid $200 bill just to get out of the house.
And that’s just the cost of getting to and from their destination. Consumers who are dining out will pay a premium, especially if the restaurant has a view of fireworks or Times Square, and even if it’s serving all the same menu items as usual. Dinner and a show for two in Times Square can cost more than $1,160, reports WalletHub, making it the most expensive city for dining on this holiday. Even in the “least expensive” city, Washington, D.C., a couple can pay over $480 for dinner and a show.
According to University College London consumer psychologist Dimitrios Tsivrikos, businesses prey on consumers’ emotional investment in the changing of the calendar year. Hospitality and entertainment are the worst offenders, he said.
“New Year is something that we can all share and symbolizes new beginnings,” Tsivrikos told the Telegraph. “Companies know we invest emotionally and financially in a 'good time' on New Year's Eve and take advantage of it by increasing prices.”
This trend will likely only continue, since consumers seem willing to cough up the extra cash. On average, 2 million people head to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, more than enough to keep businesses from making any 2018 resolutions to offer more reasonable prices.