Today's Tidbit: Thoughtful Christmas Gifts Are Cherished, Good Deals Get Regifted

Thoughtful Christmas Gifts Are Cherished, Good Deals Get Regifted

As we approach the holiday (i.e. gift-giving) season, don't forget to make sure to include the usual notes in your gifts indicating that they can be returned. Otherwise, you'll just cause the recipients to save your gifts until they can be properly regifted onto some other ungrateful chump.

Alternatively, you might make use of the recently patented electronic regifting system that allows regifting with the mere click of a mouse.

This is also the season of holiday parties, so make sure you keep track of which bottle of wine was given to you by whom so you don't accidently give it back to the person who gave it to you.

Wouldn't it be so much easier to simply give nice green fungible cash?

"Hi. Hello. Oh, best not to kiss me since I have a bit of a sniffle. Thank you so much for inviting us into your home for dinner. Here's $60 to help pay for the meal."

Actually, Joel Waldfogel has estimated that "we value items we receive as gifts 20 percent less, per dollar spent, than items we buy for ourselves." That comes to $65 billion of value destruction each holiday season. Why do we do this?

When my wife was young, she told her mother, who worked full-time, that she wanted a "homemade" cake for her birthday. And therein lies the answer. Making cakes and buying gifts takes time, and finding the right gift, one that taps into the recipient's passions, requires both caring and an intimate knowledge of the recipient.

Carefully selected gifts are thus signals of love, intimacy, and affection.

What a pain.


  • What Money Can't Buy, 2012 book by Michael Sandel, pages 98-107
  • Scroogenomics, 2009 book by Joel Waldfogel
  • Principles of Economics, 2010 book by Gregory Mankiw
  • "Giving to my Wild Side", 2006 article by Alex Tabarrok

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