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Christmas gift-giving by the numbers

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Now that the dust has settled on another Christmas season, let’s review some aspects of the gift-buying and gift-giving process strictly from an economic standpoint with the help of Wikipedia and a few other sources.

While the holiday season for many is a time of joy, for some it is filled with frustrations over gift-buying for friends and family.

Most of us dread and despise the inevitable shopping mess that is Black Friday regardless of all the boasting about the great deals we got.

We hate not knowing what to get or buying for people who already have everything.

Philosopher Tyler Durden described Christmas shopping as “working at jobs we hate so we can buy stuff for people they don’t need.”

It was estimated that Americans probably spent more than $700 per shopper on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion.

Also, it has been determined a quarter of all personal spending for the entire year takes place during each Christmas/holiday shopping season.

According to the National Retail Federation, if that money had been spent entirely on U.S.-made products, it would create 4.6 million jobs.

Economist David Kyle Johnson, author of the book “The Myths that Stole Christmas,” said the common wisdom that Christmas is good for the economy is wrong and that seasonal spending actually makes the economy worse by inflating the credit bubble and generating wasteful spending.

Johnson said it would be better and more “American” for people to save or invest their money to encourage economic growth instead.

“The two-thirds of our Christmas spending that is done on credit cards may ‘prop up’ our economy, but it only props it up on stilts,” said Johnson. “We are wasting that money propping up non-essential industries such as electronic entertainment while things like our infrastructure crumble.”

Another economist’s analysis calculates that, despite increased overall spending, Christmas actually results in a dead-weight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory.

This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift-giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item.

Since I do not understand economic theory any better than most of you, I’ll simply stop there, although I did hear some economic-related comments recently like “so-and-so got me a gift that cost X dollars; that meant I had to give/him/her one that was worth that much” or “I gave so-and-so a present that cost me $100 and that ‘$%#@&’ cheapskate gave me a gift in return that only cost $10.”

“Each year, people are spending about $12 billion more on Christmas gifts than they are worth to their recipients and that is more wasted money than all government pork-barrel spending combined,” said economist Joel Waldfogel.

Most ads or shopping stories seen on television prior to Christmas tend to offer an unrealistic picture of gift-giving.

While your situation may be different, not everyone, at least most of the people I know, including me, received a $60,000 to $70,000 car or truck, an ultra-expensive phone, extravagant jewelry or a cruise around the world for Christmas as the TV commercials would have us believe.

Trying to determine exactly what makes a good or proper gift is next to impossible, as situations are not the same for everybody.

Ever wonder how some recipients really feel about the gifts you spent your time and money buying and presenting to them?

When one group of people was asked in an online survey about gifts they had received following Christmas in 2016, about 15 percent of those who responded said they were unhappy overall with the gifts they got.

Another 10 percent said they could not even remember what gifts they received, nor from whom they had come.

Some 25 percent said they had re-gifted their presents to someone else, 14 percent said they sold the items, 10 percent tried to return them to the store and 5 percent said they returned the gifts to the giver.

Most senior citizens said they donated their unwanted presents to charity.

An interesting example came from an unnamed New York store employee who spoke about the negative side of Christmas gift-giving.

The employee said while she received $25 from her boss as a Christmas bonus/gift, she was in turn expected to pitch in $20-$25 toward a gift for him, as was every co-worker in a large pool of employees in addition to having to buy gifts for most co-workers and assistant bosses, each one costing around $5-$10 each.

She added that failure to cooperate with this plan meant being chastised, criticized or internally punished throughout the office for being a cheapskate and not going along with the system.

While Christmas may be the most joyous time of the year, it has a tendency to also sometimes get out of hand and get a little costly.

Ho-Ho-Ho! and have a Happy New Year.

Keith Barnes is a reporter and columnist for the Johnstonian News in Kenly. Email him at kbarnes.jhn@wilsontimes.com.

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