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Why More Americans Are Self-Gifting This Year

More Americans than ever are giving themselves presents, so what happened to the humility of gift giving? Sociologists say our increasingly liberal culture has left us feeling lonely during the holidays. 

What’s the Latest Development?

More Americans are buying themselves gifts this holiday season while gifting rates for friends and co-workers have dropped, according to an annual survey completed for the National Retail Federation. “The percentage of people who said in October that they planned to take advantage of sales and buy for themselves during the holiday season has been climbing steadily from 51 percent in 2004 (when the question was first asked) to nearly 60 percent last year.” Some retail experts say steeper discounts on holiday items, driven by tougher economic times, have made it easier to justify buying presents for yourself. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Paco Underhill, who has been writing about behavioral research and shopping since the 1970s, says that rationalization plays a large role in the self-gifting process. We’ll say “I’ll look better for my spouse with this,” or “This will make me a better cook.” In other words, we tell ourselves that treating yourself can mean benefiting others. Underhill also worries about the dark side of self-gifting and believes that our transient, often single culture can be a lonely one. “We’re looking,” he said, “for little signs of self-worth we used to get from someone else.”

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