We always search for a gift for our loved ones, especially in special days such as birthdays or Christmas. Nowadays, the best place to choose a gift from is the internet and our best support is Google! Apart from choosing the right brand, or the actual thing we get for someone, there is always another question that pops up in my mind: “Should I create something myself (such as designing a card) or should I get something more pragmatic that they can use in everyday life?” This question appears to me as a dilemma since making something for someone sounds nice and even romantic, but getting something for everyday use can be more efficient.

I made some search around what scientific research has to say about this matter and found some interesting psychological studies. For example, researchers wanted to measure the positive effects of a gift for both the receiver and the giver. Even though our materialistic side pushes us to make our loved one happy by getting the most efficient gift, the research shows that the best gift turns out to be slightly the opposite option. Van Boven and Gilovich conducted a study to see how materialistic or experiential purchase of a person is related to their happiness level. The study provided a piece of evidence for the idea that experiential purchases make individuals who receive the gift happier as compared to materialistic purchases.

According to the study, receiving experiential gifts such as concert tickets, a holiday, or handmade gifts makes us happier. Authors proposed three reasons for this. Firstly, when we get a gift which includes an activity or an event, it becomes harder to compare them with other products. However, when we get a gift from a brand, we can always compare its price or its quality with other brands or other products. Second, experiential gifts carry a sentimental value showing us an effort which is made specifically for us and we value that gift more than the factory-made products. And lastly, when we go back in time and think about the gift we received, we can remember the good memories of the person who made the gift, or we can remember good memories of our trip while we might forget about that sweater we received. This shows that experiential gifts can provide longer positive effects than materialistic ones.

In a nutshell, I would spend more time thinking about what gifts to get for my friends and family. If I can’t make anything myself or afford a ticket for an event, then I would try to add a sentimental value like drawing a picture of good memory and attach it to the gift. This way I can increase the chances that the person receiving the gift will be happier in the long run.

Further Reading
Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To do or to have? That is the question. Journal of personality and social psychology85(6), 1193.

Waldfogel, J. (1993). The deadweight loss of Christmas. The American Economic Review83(5), 1328-1336.

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