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Monday, December 20, 2010

'Scroogenomics'

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 3:16 PM

The book Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays, by economist Joel Waldfogelm, came out last year, but I love the concept so much I thought I'd throw it out there again.

Here's an excerpt from the introduction to an interview with the author from The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Waldfogel estimates that Americans drop close to $70 billion a year on Christmas shopping for gifts people often don’t want … baggy underwear, ugly sweaters, etc. Society, he says in the book, would be better off if people didn’t spend it.

“Throughout the year, we shop meticulously for ourselves, looking at scores of items before choosing those that warrant spending our own money. The process at Christmas, by contrast, has givers shooting in the dark about what you like… to make matters worse, we do much of this spending with credit, going into hock using money we don’t yet have to buy things that recipients don’t really want.”

He says the deadweight loss to society from all of this frivolous spending — an “orgy of wealth destruction” as he calls it — is about $25 billion. Imagine if that money was given to charity instead? Or how many banks it could have saved! (If it were used to pay down the government’s debt, we might get the whole thing paid off in just a few centuries!)

Read the interview here.

Another thing to imagine: All of the trash we won't generate when we don't have presents to wrap or layers of plastic packaging to discard. And, think of all the time — and money —  you'll save by not shopping, not wrapping, not shipping gifts and not mailing cards.

Still, try as I might to not shop this year, I ended up at a big box retailer yesterday, grumbling about the cranky staff, the crowds and, well, the fact that I was there at all. Even though my gifts to my family didn't require shopping, shipping them did. And, yeah, while I was at it I got some paper and wrapped their gifts. Old habits die hard.

Speaking of not shopping, Judith Levine also wrote a book on the topic called Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. Here's the author explaining how her life improved when she stopped shopping:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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