As we stumble into December it has been suggested that this year we will waste billions of pounds on unwanted Christmas presents.

According to a survey by the charity World Vision, £2.3bn worth of worthless and unnecessary presents will be given and received with a forced grin this festive season.

To highlight the folly of the annual festive spending frenzy, almost half of those questioned admitted they couldn’t even remember what gifts they received 12 months ago.

World Vision has released the survey to promote a range of alternative Christmas gifts. The charity offers 70 gifts that directly benefit development projects in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and South America. 

But the results also serve to show just what a wasteful society we have become – 76.4% admit wasting up to £50 on pointless presents each year. Other research suggests the figure released by World Vision might be a little on the conservative side.

Professor John Saunders puts the total amount wasted each year closer to £4.5bn due to the combined effect of unwanted gifts and inflated seasonal prices .

“What is the point in someone spending £10 on a pair of socks or a book whose only impact on the recipient is storing an item they do not want?” asks Prof Saunders. “The phenomenon is known as the deadweight loss of Christmas and one reason for it is that we end up buying either stuff we know nothing about or for people we do not know very well.”

“For the UK , this is a potential deadweight loss of more than £4.5bn; just think what we could do with that money.

“But even that figure is an underestimate because it does not take into account the time and effort spent shopping, wrapping and delivering.

“Our ignorance means that top brands sell especially well at Christmas. They maybe do not fit with what people want but at least top brands usually perform well and signal expense. It is the same principle that keeps Chanel as the top selling fragrance at airports, it is the one people are most likely to have heard of, and because it is most widely purchased, it must be a ‘safe’ buy.”

The aspirational nature of our society has a lot to answer for – we want to have the “right” labels for ourselves, but when Christmas comes around we also want to be seen to be giving the right labels too.

There is some suggestion that attitudes are changing. But Buy Nothing Day still remains a minority past-time compared to the typical orgy of conspicuous consumption that we will witness again this year.

We live largely unsustainable lifestyles and the Christmas spend, spend, spend mentality is the most obvious example of what is a deeply ingrained and hugely damaging characteristic of modern life.

Merry Christmas one and all.

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