Smart Spending

Gift Giving And The Psychology Behind It

For most people, Christmas is a fun time of year.  Winter is upon us, things are slowing down outside due to colder weather and shortened days.  We decorate our homes, focus on our friends and family, and the season is all around joyous.  Well, except for that obligatory shopping and gift giving.  Every year we feel obligated to get out there and spend money on people.  And every year we hear of fights in stores over items that are in danger of being sold out.  Have you ever stopped to think about why people put themselves through such torment?

The Hunt

Personally, I hate shopping.  Looking for gifts or shopping for necessities, it all drives me bonkers.  But there are a great number of people who love to do it.  When they are out there hunting for Christmas gifts they are invigorated and energized by the hunt for the perfect gift.  There is a feeling of elation, a sense of accomplishment, when that perfect gift is found.  The joy is akin to finishing a race in first place.  It is a morale boost.

The Giving

Just as important as finding the right gift is the actual act of gift giving.  Packaging it up nicely, labeling it with another person’s name, and placing it under the tree until they notice.  These all inspire excitement within a person.  It makes them feel selfless and caring when they give to others.

The Feeling

That feeling is only heightened when the other person opens the gift.  The look on their face, the expression of joy, the hugs and thank-you’s send a rush of satisfaction through the giver.  Everyone likes to be praised for their work.  Whether it is at their job, doing chores around the house, or giving a great gift, that praise is what people seek.

The Karma

The biggest fallacy about giving gifts is that most of the time those who love to give are not trying to inspire the other person to give a gift in return.  Instead, the act of giving a gift is enough to bring feelings of joy in and of themselves.  This is not to say the giver does not expect anything in return.  Just as they were a good and generous person, they expect that somehow goodness will find its way back to them.  It may not come from the recipient, but the giver expects that somewhere along the line they will be paid back for their kindness.

The old saying, “it is better to give than to receive” is more than just about the feelings that giving inspires.  It is just as much about avoiding the negative feelings that come with receiving.  Those receiving gifts can often feel cheated if you receive a gift that you feel is too small, or feelings of trepidation if the gift your receive is too large (you are left wondering what the motive is behind the gift).  This is why many people would rather avoid the negative feelings by giving rather than getting.

I am not much for shopping, and I am not much for the materialism that surrounds the holiday season.  However, I am a proponent of doing what it takes to make you happy.  For a lot of people, the shopping for, buying of, and gift giving is a form of therapy.  Instead of going to a counselor or psychologist, they shop for gifts for others.  So if you are feeling blue, regardless of the time of year, maybe you should go out of your way to give a gift.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  As long as it comes from the heart, the other person will be glad to get it.