Improve Your Gift Giving by 20% AND Save Time


Can it be true?  Yes!  Make the holiday gift giving better for your gift receivers AND save time yourself?  Sign up today!  The secret comes from Joel Waldfogel an economist at U Penn who has the research to back his claim.

His rationale is powerful: I may spend $25 on a lovely Haas School of Business fleece that I give you.  But that fleece is probably NOT what you’d spend your next $25 on.  It’s just not worth $25 to you. After vast surveys of gift recipients, he finds that on average they value the gifts they’ve received at 20% less than what the giver spent. Collectively, over the holidays, Waldvogel calculates we spend $13 billion more on gifts than the receivers would spend for the same items, in what he calls an “orgy of value destruction.”

The obvious answer, says Waldvogel is GIVE CASH! Then the recipient can get full value. They’ll buy what they want, not what you think they want (and they’ll avoid all the post-Christmas return madness).  And you avoid the malls, the wrapping, the stress of it all.  Scroogenomics he calls it. Indeed. Makes that pesky office Secret Santa a lot easier, too.

Of course, there’s a little lost.  Doncha think?

In a Reading for Leading first, I’m seeking great digital PHOTOS that capture the invisible value of the holidays. Not the value or “utility” Waldvogel is documenting, but instead photos of the times, places, experiences that are not bought, sold or even quantifiable.  I guess they’re the shots that American Express — in a marvelously ironic  attempt to get people to charge more — calls “priceless.” Look for me to use these digital photos in a short video I’m producing for and for Reading for Leading.   Have any great shots you can give that I might use in the video? Hit “Reply”and attach a favorite.

And, of course, think about truly valuable gifts for your family and your “work family” as you

Lead with your best self,






Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays:

Sandel, Michael J. (2012-04-24). What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (p. 99). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

  • Wow, so unless I want to contribute to the “orgy of value destruction” Waldfogel has identified, my recipient has to like my gift enough to pay the same amount I did for it? Can it be that maybe I’m overvaluing the amount I report to Waldfogel so that he doesn’t think I’m a cheapskate, or that his subjects simply wouldn’t do that well on The Price Is Right–or both? Also is it merely the value to the recipient that should be measured, or might we mitigate this orgy by considering the value I extract from the act of giving?

    My ex, an extravagant gift giver, was also given to critiquing any gift purchase I made for anyone, and seemed to think that gifts require some self-improvement component (“That may be what X asked for, but it’s not what X NEEDS!”). So that this did not entirely leach the pleasure out of my gift shopping, I decided that my goal would be to afford twenty minutes of enjoyment to my recipient. I chose that benchmark because it seemed to me that most gifts people didn’t like fell below it, so why not make that the minimum threshold of success? I also decided that “the thought” does indeed count, in that even if they did nothing with the actual gift, the enjoyment they derive from my careful consideration of them has value irrespective of the gift’s destiny. This also means I have no problem with someone “regifting,” since I’ve thereby made their shopping easier and that also counts.

  • Hi Dan, I pride myself on challenging myself to go the extra mile to find gifts that have meaning to the recipient even if it doesn’t hold the same meaning for me. My children have seemed to pick up on this and last year, my son framed a photo that he took. He even wrote (said his girlfriend had better penmanship) to write a quote that I love. I feel it was an investment of time, money (film, photo paper, ink, & frame) and effort. It is hanging in my office right now. For my birthday my sister apologized for not giving me a “real” gift, and instead gave me a “top 10” list of why I was the best sister in the world. A priceless gift indeed.

    It sounds like you are working on a great project and I can’t wait to see the end result. I’ve even shared your post on FB:) Happy Holidays!!!!

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