Polls / February 20, 2012

Do you think there is too much pressure to buy expensive gifts for birthdays and other occasions?

Nearly six in ten of close to 1,000 respondents to the latest eZonomics online poll think there is too much pressure to buy expensive gifts for birthdays and other occasions.

Ask and you might receive
Picking the perfect gift might be easier than you think – ask the recipient what they want. Studies on gift giving – such as 2011 research from Stanford Graduate School of Business – find that surprises often do not elicit as much appreciation as the giver expects. A better bet tends to be gifting what the receiver asked for. Or meet in the middle and ask for a list of possible gift options. Economic purists, such as Scroogenomics author Joel Waldfogel, say cash is the most “efficient” gift as the recipient knows how much was spent and can buy exactly what they want. However, efficiency isn’t necessarily a quality prized on birthdays and occasions. People to tend to like to exchange items they can cherish into the future or enjoy a meal, concert or other experience to remember.

All I want for Christmas is you
A birthday comes around just once a year – so perhaps we go out of our way to make it extra special. The same is true for New Year, Valentine’s Day and many religious holidays, meaning that such occasions can actually be treated as a known cost and worked into household budgets. Don’t forget when the pressure is on to buy expensive gifts that spending time counts too: Taking the time to write a personal message, cook dinner, make a card or gather meaningful photographs might be as gratefully received as pricey gift. Why? It requires the investment of time and effort. According to professor Christopher Coyne in a video on The Economics of Valentine’s Day, investing time “signals” (in economics terms) a level of affection for the other person.

eZonomics team
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