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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Brilliant Christmas Gift Exchange Plan

Finding the right gift for people who already have way too much stuff can be a real challenge. So economist Joel Waldfogel suggests just giving a gift card or writing a check to a favorite charity in someone's name instead.

I love the giving to charity idea, but before we go shopping for gift cards, here's an even more efficient plan, one I've called the "Practical, Utilitarian and Radically Simple Exchange (PURSE for short). In all modesty, I consider it the perfect answer for today's busy and cost conscious shopper, and it can feel way more generous than a $50 gift card.

Here's how it works. You first get your family members, co-workers or friends together and agree to draw names. This makes certain that each person will give something and get something. But my PURSE plan goes further in assuring absolute equality for all, and better yet, it costs no one a single dime. 

Yes, you heard me right. In the end it costs no one anything, not even a trip to the mall (which for me is one of the better parts of this plan).

We accomplish this by simply agreeing to give each other money--legal tender, filthy lucre, dough, cash, a check, whichever--but solemnly agree ahead of time the exact amount each is to give, which could be an outlandishly huge amount, say $10,000 or even more. Because with the revolutionary PURSE plan, the agreed on amount doesn't matter--as long as everyone gives (and receives) exactly the same amount.

Is this brilliant or what? You have to agree, it couldn't be more simple or more fair, right? And when your annual Christmas exchange is over no one is a dime richer or a penny poorer. 

And better yet, no one is stressed, exhausted or disappointed.

True, the economy gets no benefit from this little transaction, but for people who already have everything they possibly need, it's really just the thought that counts anyway, right? 

And I've even cherry-picked an actual Bible verse to go with this scheme, found in Proverbs 1:14: "Cast thy lot with us, and we will share a common PURSE."
(emphasis mine, and with tongue firmly in cheek, of course;-)

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This is an edited version of a post from two years ago.

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