Summary of Scroogenomics

Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays

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Scroogenomics book summary
An economist’s view of Christmas: Is buying Christmas presents the best use of your money in today’s depressed economy?


9 Overall

6 Applicability

9 Innovation

9 Style


People are conditioned to think that holiday spending is good for the economy. Even fiscal analysts read seasonal retail spending as an indicator of good or bad times. However, University of Pennsylvania professor Joel Waldfogel takes an economist’s look at gift giving and pronounces it wasteful. Every time you receive a gift that’s not what you want, the item loses value. For example, you wouldn’t pay more than $10 for the ugly orange teapot Aunt Bea bought you for $50. What’s the solution? Cash, of course, but giving cash is often seen as being in bad taste. How about gift cards? A little bit better, theorizes Waldfogel, but people don’t always redeem gift cards, which generates waste as well. getAbstract recommends this grumpy professor’s analysis of Christmas spending, which manages to be simultaneously fun and serious. Those with an interest in economics or a passion for looking at revered institutions from a fresh perspective will enjoy this little text. And, it makes a great stocking stuffer.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why people waste billions of dollars every Christmas
  • How to apply economic theory to holiday spending
  • How gift cards and donations to charity can enhance holiday giving


Think back to the last holiday season. Did you like all the presents you received? If you’re like most people, you received many gifts that you never would have bought for yourself. From an economist’s point of view, gift giving does a poor job of matching an item...
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About the Author

Joel Waldfogel chairs Business and Public Policy at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. He wrote The Tyranny of the Market and the article that sparked this book, The Deadweight Loss of Christmas.

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    Patrick Brigger 4 years ago
    The author is total correct when considering the matter with a rational mind. However, he totally misses a very important point: When my grandmother gives me an ugly tea pot that she bought for $50, and I don't even like it and would not spend a dime on it, it still represent a gift to me worth much more than the $50. It is the thought that counts. I know she went out of her way to get it, and she spent a good some of money, and this means the world to me. Grandma, please continue to give me those ugly tea pots, I couldn't live without them!!

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