“Bah Humbug you Grinch!”
This is the response I get around the holidays whenever I have a few drinks and suddenly feel confident enough to espouse how ridiculously weird and inefficient Christmas presents are (and Birthday presents too for that matter).  Hey, I get the whole Christmas spirit thing.  People have been celebrating around the time of the winter solstice since time has been recorded.  I love hanging out with friends and family and getting a break from the normal grind routine.  I thoroughly enjoy eating the cooking and baking of people who are much better at those activities than I am!  I don’t even really mind the pomp and circumstance of decorations and the endless Christmas songs, even though I could take or leave them.  I don’t consider myself a Grinch that hates celebration, I just think the idea of all of us pouring our hard-earned money into material goods for each other that we are not certain anyone either wants or needs is ridiculous!

You're a Mean One…

Perhaps the cultural reference that best illustrates my point is a recent Big Bang Theory episode that I watched where Sheldon is confused and frustrated with the whole notion of Christmas gift giving.  In order to avoid any weird feelings one way or another he seeks to find a gift that will be roughly equivalent to the one he receives from Penny (the weird mental dance that we all do when giving gifts), but this presents several problems stemming from the fact he is not sure what Penny will get him.  In order to be sure that he gets the ideal present Sheldon buys three gift baskets of varying sizes so that he is prepared no matter Penny gets him.  Of course hilarity ensues, but the fact that Sheldon has to go through so much time and effort in order to find an acceptable logical solution to this completely man-made problem is insane!

Cuddly as a Cactus…

Christmas MoneyI love my family and friends very much, and because of this I empathize with the frustration they must feel when trying to pick out gifts for me.  I’m a pretty simple guy, and the stuff that I need I buy for myself, and what I REALLY want I also purchase for myself.  After that, there isn’t much time to use or want anything else!  Consequently I’m pretty certain I’m hard to buy for (I don’t like collecting things, I’m not into clothes, etc).  This resulted in me getting a bevy of presents that I don’t really like this year (as every year).  It’s nothing personal, but I don’t wear scarves, I already have a wallet that works just fine thank you, and those basketball shorts are really nice… that’s why I bought them three months ago.

Charming as an Eel…

Not only is this a minor irritant, in economic terms it’s a gross misuse of money!  The only person that could truly know how I would get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of the money spend on me, is Moi!  So if we set our standard at that level, many of the gifts I received were in the 20-30% utility range, and even very good ones only providing me with 70-80% as much enjoyment as if I had simply spent the money myself.  Therefore, this represents a huge loss in the overall enjoyment factor that anyone received as a result of the gift giving exchange.  I’m sure I spend much time and money tracking down gifts that fell into the 30-70% range for others, and that makes me very sad.  If I’m going to hand over my earned money to corporations (instead of using it to buy shares of those corporations), I want to make sure that someone gets the maximum enjoyment out of it.

Stink, Stank, Stunk…

What’s wrong with great cooking and conversation being used to celebrate the Holidays?  Isn’t that enough?  Why do we have to go through this elaborate ceremonial dance in which everyone loses out in the long term, and which in an abstract sense just encourages the obsession with materialism that we have fallen victim to in the Western World?  Wouldn’t the easiest and most efficient solution simply be to all keep our money and do away with the weird tradition for everyone except the children, which is who Christmas is really for anyway?

About Kyle Prevost

Kyle Prevost is a business teacher and personal finance writer helping people save and invest over at MyUniversityMoney. com and YoungandThrifty.ca. His co-authored book, More Money for Beer and Textbooks, is available in book stores.