Toy prices have gone up between 110% and 230%
Toy prices have gone up between 110 percent and 230 percent this year, according to industry figures. AFP

Cecilia Rojas has scoured shops across greater Buenos Aires to find an affordable gift for her children this Christmas, which is set to be a gloomy affair as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.

"Before I would buy from a well-known toy store chain, but now I look at smaller, neighborhood businesses to find a better price," the 47-year-old told AFP.

A psychologist, Rojas has a 17-year-old son as well as an eight-year-old who still believes in Santa Clause.

"He wrote him a long letter," she said.

This year her children will get one gift each, unlike in previous years when she tried to buy a few.

Festive frugality is the order of the holidays as Argentina ends the year with annual inflation at 160 percent.

Toy prices have gone up between 110 percent and 230 percent this year, according to industry figures.

Christmas shoppers have to be patient and wily.

"You walk a little and find the same product in different businesses with different prices," said Agustina Gago, 23, who has a four-year-old son.

"This year we are going to buy him a gift thanks to the help we get from our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, of which, luckily, there are several," she said with a smile.

The country is also reeling from the headspinning start to President Javier Milei's new government, which has issued hundreds of decrees to de-regulate the ailing economy.

Milei, who campaigned with a chainsaw vowing to slash state spending, has also announced huge cuts in generous state subsidies of fuel and transport from January and devalued the strictly controlled peso by more than 50 percent.

His government has also done away with a program to control the prices of some goods, introduced by the previous government to try and ease the impact of inflation.

Milei has warned the country is on the brink of hyperinflation, and that things will get a lot worse before they improve.

"They are starving the people, they are using policies that we already lived through, that did not work and that all they do is pauperize the working class," said 49-year-old teacher Alexandra Mazzei, who joined a protest against the new measures on Wednesday night.

Shop owners have adapted to the yuletide belt-tightening.

"I don't even stock the most expensive stuff anymore because people don't buy it," said Ruben Gerszonowicz, 63, who owns a toy store in Buenos Aires and said price mark-ups are a daily occurrence.

He said this year was the first time in two decades he saw clients doing their Christmas shopping far in advance.

However, he believes it is necessary to "have a bit of a hard time" for the economy to get back on track, as Milei has promised.