Scroogenomics

December 11, 2012

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Consumer spending around the holidays provides a major boost to the economy, but gift-giving actually produces a surprising amount of financial waste. In Scroogenomics, author Joel Waldfogel explains why we might be better off buying gifts for ourselves and avoiding the process of "wealth destruction."

Christmas is a time of seasonal cheer, family get-togethers, holiday parties and-gift giving. Lots and lots — and lots — of gift-giving. It's hard to imagine any Christmas without this time-honored custom. But let's stop to consider the gifts we receive — the rooster sweater from Grandma or the singing fish from Uncle Mike. How many of us get gifts we like? How many of us give gifts not knowing what recipients want? Did your cousin really look excited about that jumping alarm clock? Lively and informed, Scroogenomics illustrates how our consumer spending generates vast amounts of economic waste — to the shocking tune of $85 billion each winter. Economist Joel Waldfogel provides solid explanations to show us why it's time to stop the madness and think twice before buying gifts for the holidays.

When we buy for ourselves, every dollar we spend produces at least a dollar in satisfaction, because we shop carefully and purchase items that are worth more than they cost. Gift-giving is different. We make less-informed choices, max out on credit to buy gifts worth less than the money spent and leave recipients less than satisfied, creating what Waldfogel calls "deadweight loss." Waldfogel indicates that this waste isn't confined to Americans — most major economies share in this orgy of wealth destruction. While recognizing the difficulties of altering current trends, Waldfogel offers viable gift-giving alternatives.

By reprioritizing our gift-giving habits, Scroogenomics proves that we can still maintain the economy without gouging our wallets, and reclaim the true spirit of the holiday season.

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