Joel Waldfogel is my kind of economist. His new book Scroogenomics asks us to analyze our gift-giving, especially at this time of year, and ask ourselves if it's really worth it. Waldfogel says that our consumer spending creates huge amounts of economic waste because so very often the gifts we get, aren’t the gifts we want. Think of the book from Aunt Millie you’d never read in a million years, or the sweater your brother picked out which would look better on…him.
Waldfogel is approaching the problem of gift-giving from a purely economic point-of-view and economics is renowned for leaving the Earth out of the picture. The tons and tons of waste holiday gift-giving generates through not only unwanted gifts, but also the packaging, the transportation and the disposal of said gifts is a sign of a consumer culture gone wild.
I’ve always tried to buy things I think my family and friends would like, but sometimes it feels more like a shot in the dark. Does John already have a Leatherman? Would my Aunt like this toque?
Then, when I get frustrated and panicked in the mall, I sometimes reach for something I’d like, and hope they’d like it too. This year I nearly bought my brother and sister each a neti pot, along with the salts and how-to book for cleansing your nasal passages before my sense kicked in and I thought “Maybe they wouldn’t really want a neti pot as a Christmas gift.”
I think next year I’ll remind myself of Scroogenomics and give consumables like home-made granola (insert hippie joke now) or simple gifts like beaded bookmarks instead of haunting the malls with a feverish look on my face—like the Ghost of Christmas Past.