Are you making these typical gift mistakes?

·3-min read

Everyone thinks they're great at choosing Christmas presents, but then again GoCompare has calculated that after Christmas we'll be returning £355 million worth of unwanted gifts, so we're clearly way off the mark. Don't feel bad about your gift-buying shortcomings though, because there are five very good reasons why we all get it wrong.

It all starts with the fact that we think of these things as gifts rather than items in their own right.

See also: Five terrible reasons for overspending on presents

See also: Christmas gift ideas for kids

See also: Golden rules for regifting unwanted presents

Eleanor Williams, a professor at the Indiana University School of Business has published a study on why we are so bad at giving Christmas presents. She says, we struggle to get past the moment of exchange - and the immediate impact. It means we don't think about what it will be like to own the item.

1. Drama
The moment of exchange is why we like to give a gift with some drama. It's one of the reason we are more likely to buy someone a sparkly dress that will make them ooh and ahh - and might get worn once - than a practical cardigan - even when they're clearly going to get car more use from a cardi.

2. Spectacle
The need to create spectacle is why we don't like to give 'experiences' to our nearest and dearest: a gift certificate for a spa or a hotel stay won't make the Christmas stocking bulge. However, the study found that people get more pleasure from experiential gifts - and makes them feel a stronger emotional connection to the person giving the gift.

3. Surprise
It's also why we don't like to stick to a wish list and buy something we know they will want - because we're more interested in the moment they open the surprise gift than whether they will actually get some use out of it.

4. Fun
We also like 'fun' gifts, which will put a smile on someone's face. We don't think whether that novelty t-shirt will get much wear, because we're fixated on how they will laugh when they first see it.

5. Ego
Other studies highlight that we also get sidetracked by what a present says about us in the moment it is opened. Barry Schwartz, author of The Social Psychology of the Gift, claims that we are preoccupied with how other people will see us when they open their gift (and how onlookers will see us too). This means you're never going to give your partner the toaster you both so desperately need, for fear of coming across as mean, practical and boring.

Williams points out: "The recipient obviously matters, but it's a lot harder (for givers) to think about them than it is to think about yourself, and I think that's where a lot of mistakes come from. "They get stuck in this role of being a giver and have a hard time getting out of it and thinking like the recipient does."

She concludes: "A good gift is going to be a match between the giver and the relationship and the recipient."

But what do you think? Are you still convinced that you give great gifts? Let us know in the comments.

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