Cheap Presents and the Presenter’s Paradox

A cablecar (although a bit smaller and much cheaper version ;) ): Favorit present of the year. Foto: Alps, close to Munich.

A cable car (although a bit smaller and much cheaper version 😉 ): Favorite present of the year. Photo: Kampenwand, close to Munich.

1) Gifts: What you can learn from observing kids

You have kids?

They are a great chance to learn something about happiness, because kids express their feelings and preferences very straight forward and transparent as social expectations and courtesy are not yet part of their reaction.

One interesting observation after Christmas (or after birthdays) is how they react to presents.

This year was great fun again, as Woodpecker’s older boy (3 yrs) actually went crazy on the probably most cheap present – a little wooden cable car. It is a quite simple device made out of a small wooden carbine attached via small coils to a string that I stretched right through the boy’s room.
Cost: 5 EUR (6 USD).

It occupied both the boy and Woodpecker for most of the last two days, whereas other presents that cost 10 times are still more or less untouched in the corner.

The smaller boy (1 year) actually was most occupied not by the content, but by the packaging cartons of his presents.

That confirms my view that not the size, cost or fancyness of a kids present is important but its interactive potential. Make it something where the kids can explore the world, physics and their surrounding, and you are at the right side.

Apart from that we managed to convince some relatives to give away common activities instead of stuff, so – within realistic bounds – I am quite happy with this years christmas from a frugal point of view.

2) Presents for Adults – The presenter’s paradox

Actually I found an interesting research on presents for adults.
It proves that in most cases people esteem two presents lower than one present given to them. The reason is that people do a kind of average calculation between the two gifts and thus value the whole package more on the side of the cheaper one of the presents.


If you have one nice present, do not add something nice additional (a bar of chocolate) on top, as this will result in lower esteem (at higher costs) of the gift.

Link to the related article on the “presenter’s paradox”: German newspaper article , Research article University of Michigan




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