Are you making these typical gift mistakes?


Everyone thinks they're great at choosing Christmas presents, but then again GoCompare has calculated that after Christmas we'll be returning £355 million worth of unwanted gifts, so we're clearly way off the mark. Don't feel bad about your gift-buying shortcomings though, because there are five very good reasons why we all get it wrong.

It all starts with the fact that we think of these things as gifts rather than items in their own right.

See also: Five terrible reasons for overspending on presents

See also: Christmas gift ideas for kids

See also: Golden rules for regifting unwanted presents

Eleanor Williams, a professor at the Indiana University School of Business has published a study on why we are so bad at giving Christmas presents. She says, we struggle to get past the moment of exchange - and the immediate impact. It means we don't think about what it will be like to own the item.

1. Drama
The moment of exchange is why we like to give a gift with some drama. It's one of the reason we are more likely to buy someone a sparkly dress that will make them ooh and ahh - and might get worn once - than a practical cardigan - even when they're clearly going to get car more use from a cardi.

2. Spectacle
The need to create spectacle is why we don't like to give 'experiences' to our nearest and dearest: a gift certificate for a spa or a hotel stay won't make the Christmas stocking bulge. However, the study found that people get more pleasure from experiential gifts - and makes them feel a stronger emotional connection to the person giving the gift.

3. Surprise
It's also why we don't like to stick to a wish list and buy something we know they will want - because we're more interested in the moment they open the surprise gift than whether they will actually get some use out of it.

4. Fun
We also like 'fun' gifts, which will put a smile on someone's face. We don't think whether that novelty t-shirt will get much wear, because we're fixated on how they will laugh when they first see it.

5. Ego
Other studies highlight that we also get sidetracked by what a present says about us in the moment it is opened. Barry Schwartz, author of The Social Psychology of the Gift, claims that we are preoccupied with how other people will see us when they open their gift (and how onlookers will see us too). This means you're never going to give your partner the toaster you both so desperately need, for fear of coming across as mean, practical and boring.

Williams points out: "The recipient obviously matters, but it's a lot harder (for givers) to think about them than it is to think about yourself, and I think that's where a lot of mistakes come from. "They get stuck in this role of being a giver and have a hard time getting out of it and thinking like the recipient does."

She concludes: "A good gift is going to be a match between the giver and the relationship and the recipient."

But what do you think? Are you still convinced that you give great gifts? Let us know in the comments.

Gift ideas for grandparents
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Gift ideas for grandparents

Your grandparents may fall into the camp of those who have embraced ereaders and love them already. Alternatively, they may fall into the group of people who think there's nothing wrong with books.

If they fall into the latter camp, when you hand this over, remind them that they can scale up the font while they are reading, so they won't need reading glasses. Amazon is currently selling the Kindle Paperwhite (6” high resolution with back light and wifi) for £104.49.

This decorative tree comes with six frames, so grandparents can pick their favourite family members, and hang photos from the branches.

Alternatively, they can squeeze everyone on - or just the grandkids! It costs £24.00 from

It won't be the most beautiful gift you buy this year, but it might be the most practical. This big button phone is just £11.49 from Argos and is ideal for grandparents who are fed up with fiddling around with small buttons every time they want to make a call.
Janet Street Porter was apparently livid when she was given one of these as a ‘joke’ for her 70th birthday, but she’s missing a trick. If Alan 'Fluff' Freeman was happy to push one around London in his 70s, then we could all benefit from something pretty stylish that lightens the load. This one from John Lewis costs £55.
If they are a fan of the programme, then why not get your grandparents the game? They can follow the clues to find the celebrity's ancestors, and spark the traditional festive argument over a board game. This costs £20 from John Lewis.
You might have thought that the golf fan in your life had every bit of kit going, but do they have a washbag in the shape of a golf bag? At £15 from John Lewis, it's a fun addition to their ever-growing collection of golf-related memorabilia.

If you're lucky enough to have an awesome Nanny - and one who wears t-shirts - then buy her this, and let the world know how cool she is.

One Two Three T is selling them for £7.97 on Etsy (also available as Grandmother, Nana, Grandmother and Nona).

If your grandma deserves a bit of recognition for everything she does for her grandchildren, then this bag might be a good place to start.

Poppy and Petal Designs are selling it through Etsy for £12.45.

If you're buying for a green-fingered grandparent, then why not think beyond the usual bedding plants and get them a 'grow your own Prosecco' kit?

These are available for £38 through Not on the High Street, and promise to deliver a healthy grapevine (chosen for its ability to thrive in Britain and deliver grapes within a few years) - plus some personalised labels just in case they ever get to the winemaking stage.

If your grandparents are handy round the house, then you can celebrate their skills with a personalised mug.

You can add the name of the grandchild, plus whatever you call the grandparent in question, and they'll make a special mug for you. They are available through Not On The High Street for £16.

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