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Good Question: Is It Better To Give Or To Receive?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
Heather Brown loves to put her innate curiosity to work to answer yo...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Many of us will have Christmas gifts on their minds Monday night or Tuesday morning. So we thought about an age-old question that deserves a few answers this time of year.

The question is so old that the bible already answered it in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

University of Minnesota economist Dr. Joel Waldfogel is a professor in the Carlson School of Management. He is the author of “Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holidays.”

“It’s really wonderful to give, but the challenge is giving well,” Waldfogel said. “I’m happy to say that it’s better to give but only if you can really give well enough not to just destroy a lot of value in the process.”

His research found that for every dollar we spend, people only value our gift at about 80 cents.

Waldfogel says the most satisfaction comes with a gift someone really wants but won’t buy for themselves.

“That’s a really, really lofty ambition,” he said.

Less efficient: something they need but would probably buy themselves. Least efficient: something they really don’t want.

“Seeing that’s there’s some item that someone spent real money on but knowing it has no use to me whatsoever is a little bit sad,” he said.

If you have an idea what they’d like, give it to them. If not, then give them a gift card, donate to charity or create a homemade sentimental gift.

Waldfogel says as far as receiving, there’s value in that – but it can be reduced because of our obligation to receive something we don’t like gracefully.

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