Doing up Christmas

Shopping for Christmas presents raises a host of issues at the intersection of money and happiness. Here are two things that are simultaneously true:

1. I love to give people presents that delight them.

2. I hate wasting money.

This often produces mental turmoil, as a large chunk of money spent on gifts is inevitably wasted, meaning the person would have rather received cash. The ideal present is something the other person would have bought themselves, but for whatever reason did not. Figuring that out requires a lot of thought about the other person — something it is difficult to do in a crowded store or mall and when you are trying to squeeze in shopping around many other things. In stressful situations, the tendency is to revert to bad habits. In my case, I’m temperamentally cheap. So I’ll buy one cheap gift, then realize I’ve probably underspent, and I’ll feel bad about it. So I’ll go buy another to supplement, when I would have done better by getting something a bit more substantial in the first place.

I’m not sure what the answer to this dilemma is. One of my resolutions for next year is to start thinking about Christmas earlier so I have time to ponder what people would really like. This will also give me the chance to shop at some other point than Saturday mornings in December, or a brief stop at Macy’s when I was in New York on Friday at 5 p.m. If you ever want to get out of the Christmas spirit, try shopping at Macy’s then.

How do you go about your holiday shopping?

2 thoughts on “Doing up Christmas

  1. The last 2 or so years, we’ve been trying to incorporate more consumable gifts and gifts of experience into our gift giving (and our gift receiving, as we’ve told our parents we really like those types of gifts). It seems to work great, especially on the receiving side, because I don’t bring home as much “stuff” that ends up accumulating in my house. And as a bonus, I get to go have something like a massage, which I would very rarely spend money on for myself.

    1. @Emily- this is a good idea. I’ve started giving more gift certificates to spas as that is a classic thing that people won’t buy for themselves — seeming very indulgent and all! Most people will, in fact, drink a bottle of wine or champagne you give them, and I also have given a fair number of cookie baskets from Cookies by Design. They let you personalize them, so they’re good for new babies and the like.

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