Merry Christmas to Me!
Gross, Daniel, Newsweek
Byline: Daniel Gross
There's no shame in the epidemic of self-gifting.
national notebook: Among the throngs of Americans prowling the malls and trawling a[umlaut]e-commerce sites, it turns out that many Christmas shoppers are looking out for themselves. Retail-research firm NPD Group in mid-December said that, thus far, about one third of consumers have engaged in what is euphemistically called self-gifting. That's up from 12 percent in a typical pre-recession year, and up from the 19 percent who said they planned to do so last year. The National Retail Federation, the dispenser of all holiday- related data, said that in 2012, nearly 60 percent of shoppers would engage in the practice.
The latest step in the evolution of our burgeoning culture of narcissism? Yes. But you don't have to be Scrooge to realize that self-gifting makes both psychological and economic sense--especially given what Americans have endured in recent years.
The post-bust era has been a long, hard, heroic slog of balance-sheet improvement. Amer i cans have labored to save money and hack away at the huge mountain of debt they accumulated during the credit boom. According to the New York Federal Reserve, consumers have knocked down their aggregate debt load from $12.675 trillion in the third quarter of 2008 to $11.31 trillion in the third quarter of 2012; credit-card debt is off $192 billion from the peak. Americans have cut their load by spending more carefully and by engaging in that most un-American of traits: self-abnegation.
After living frugally for so much of the year--and for so many years--who can blame a parent at an Apple Store for buying herself a new iPad while she stops to get a new iPhone for her teenager? Indeed, self-gifting may actually be a function of the new abstemiousness. Let's say you've been holding off on replacing your old television. …