Here is the "Black Friday" question of the day from Martin Lewis at the Telegraph: Is it time to ban Christmas presents?
Is it time to ban Christmas presents? Across the country people are growling at the enforced obligation to waste money on that they can't afford, for people who won't use it. Festive gift-giving has lost its point, risks doing more harm than good, misteaches our children about values and kills the joy of anticipation of what should be a joyous time.
Before you think this is just curmudgeonly bah humbug, this rant isn't about presents under the spruce from parents or grandparents to children or spouses. It's about the ever growing creep of gifts to extended family, colleagues, children's teachers and more.
The next year, I polled 10,000 people on whether we should ban presents. Seven per cent said ditch all of them, 30 per cent said to all but children, and a further 46 per cent said limit it to the immediate family. Fewer than one in five supported giving beyond that.
Social convention says give a gift to someone, or their children, and you usually create an obligation on the recipient to buy back, whether they can afford it or not. If that obligation is something they will struggle to fulfill, you actually let them down.
Gift giving misprioritizes people's finances.
Christmas presents are a "zero sum" game, as people usually swap gifts of similar value. Look at it as a simple equation:
David gives Nick a £40 blue tie for Christmas; Nick gives David a pair of £40 designer orange socks.
The net result ... Nick has spent £40 and got a blue tie; David has spent £40 and got orange socks.
Effectively, you pay to receive someone else's choice of object. Fine if people have wealth, but consider Janet and John. Financially, everything's bonzer for her, so she decides, generously, to buy gifts for all and sundry. In her cousin John's case, it's a pair of £25 funky cufflinks. Yet he's skint, in debt, and has three kids but pride obliges him to buy her something of equal value.
Without the gift giving obligation, would John have really chosen to prioritise spending £25 to receive cufflinks? Instead, perhaps he'd have replaced his children's shoes or repaid some debt. Worse still, maybe he borrowed more to buy Janet her gift.
In other words, giftswapping skewed John's priorities. He would've been better off if Janet hadn't bought him a present.
Some will say my view is unromantic, and others more bluntly call me Scrooge. However, this isn't about stopping festive fun, it's a challenge to pressured, blithe and habitual gift giving.
When buying's a chore, a thing to tick off a list, does that really help our pockets or our souls? Spending your time making tokens others appreciate, or even just being more considerate, is more in keeping with the spirit of winter festivals. Perhaps the real gift is to release someone from the obligation of buying you a present.