At least that’s what I think former Wharton professor and economist Joel Waldfogel is implying in his book Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holidays (Princeton University Press).
In a 2012 interview with Bloomberg, Waldfogel argues that Americans end up wasting billions of dollars on presents during the holiday season every year:
“Normally, when we spend money on ourselves we only buy things that they’re worth at least the price. So if I see something worth $50 to me, I’ll buy it. Normally, spending provides some measure of satisfaction.”
He then contrasts this to giving gifts to others.
“Gift giving is really different. If I set up to spend $50 on you, I’m operating at a huge disadvantage– I don’t know what you like or what you already have. I could spend $50 and buy something that is worth nothing to you.”