Christmastime Gift Giving: The 2017 AtmosFX Celebration Census

Exchanging gifts has been part of human tradition since we first started establishing rituals — maybe even before — so you might think that after thousands of years of practice in every culture across the world, we'd be better at it.

To help provide just a little insight into gift-giving, we present the Christmastime findings of the AtmosFX Celebration Census. The responses were collected via a blind online panel, distributed across gender, age, and location in the U.S.

Women: Prepare to be Disappointed!

Brace for the bombshell: Men find it hard to shop for women. The most difficult, no surprise, were wives, coming in at 17%. And when we added girlfriends and fiancées, the tally rose to 22.6%. (The combined total of husbands, boyfriends and fiancées, by comparison, is 16.6%.) Sorted for gender, females said husbands were the hardest to shop for – 21%. Sorted for males? Wives shot up to 35.9%. We know what you’re thinking: Does the data show that wives are picky when it comes to gifts? Or, are men just terrible at making good choices? On that, we plead the fifth.

Shopping Isn’t Always Easier For Women!

Compared to men, women say it is harder to shop for dad (62.5%), in-laws (70.6%) and teens (76.9%). Could it be that, for these groups, women are the only ones actually doing the shopping?

Scrooge Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

This time of year, everyone is filled with hope and optimism – it’s why so many find joy in the season. We find hope in the results of this question, too. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said the actual gift doesn’t matter – they see gift-giving as a way of expressing love and friendship. Of those three categories, leading the pack are those who see it as a social benefit (29.4%), followed by the it’s better to give than to receive crowd (28.5%), and those who appreciate just being remembered (12.3%).

Is Scrooge Dead?

He certainly isn’t a member of the younger generation. When sorted for age, 92% of people in the 18-29 age group had a positive association with gift giving.

Optimistic: I hope to get something nice and I’m usually happy with what I get 15.33% 159
Disappointed: I hope to get something nice but I rarely get what I want 4.63% 48
Sentimental: I don’t really care what I get as long as people remember me 12.34% 128
Charitable: I enjoy giving gifts to others the most. I don’t care if I get gifts 28.54% 296
Social: I enjoy giving and receiving gifts no matter what they are 29.41% 305
Excluded but Hopeful: I don’t partake in gift giving, but I would like to 1.06% 11
Excluded and Content: I don’t partake in gift giving, and I’m okay with it 5.79% 60
Blatantly Non-Gift-Giver: I don’t partake in gift giving because I don’t want to 2.89% 30


Consider Clothing and Underwear As Punishment

A child’s memory of a terrible holiday gift may fade but is never forgotten. To increase the chance that Uncle Irwin – and not you – will forever be associated with your child’s holiday misery, consider one simple rule: Don’t give children clothing.

Far-and-away the most offending culprit is clothing that does not align with the recipient’s personal taste – a whopping 28.3%. If you add other clunkers like underwear (9.9%), out-of-fashion clothes (8.6%) and hand-me-downs (3.0%), nearly half of all children’s terrible gifts were unwanted clothes. The numbers don't lie. If you think you can beat the odds, make sure to save your receipts.

A toy that I had clearly outgrown 6.46% 67
Clothes that were way out of fashion for the time 8.58% 89
Clothes that were nothing like what I would wear 28.25% 293
Underwear 9.93% 103
Hand-me-down toys 1.74% 18
Hand-me-down clothes 2.99% 31
An ugly hand-crafted item 4.53% 47
An educational item 4.24% 44
Hygiene item(s) (toothbrush, soap, deodorant) 7.81% 81
An outdated gadget I couldn’t use
(cheaper, older, too basic)
5.69% 59
Other 19.77% 205

Ugly Jewelry, Sweaters & Washing Machines Just Don't

What’s sure to ruin a cheery Christmas morning? Give the gift of ugly jewelry. 15.7% of respondents said so and, if you ask only women, the number rises to 25.5%.

Home improvements disguised as gifts, like washing machines (13.4%), should be avoided, as well as gifts that send the wrong message, like hygiene products (10%).

When you add up ugly sweaters (10.2%), socks (5.4%), underwear (4.2%), and neckties (2.3%), unwanted clothing items make up nearly a third of unwanted gifts.

Ugly sweater 10.22% 106
Socks (that were not at all fun) 5.40% 56
Necktie 2.31% 24
Underwear 4.24% 44
Soap on a rope
(or other unwanted hygiene product)
10.03% 104
An embarrassing gag gift 10.99% 114
An outdated cell phone 1.16% 12
An outdated computer 1.74% 18
An ugly piece of jewelry 15.72% 163
A charitable donation in your name 3.18% 33
An item that was clearly for the house
(like a washing machine)
13.40% 139
Other 21.60% 224

Gifts Don’t Have To Be Expensive — They Just Have To Be Perfect

What does your significant other really want in a gift? 34.1% of respondents tell us want a gift that speaks to who they are as a person. The good news: It doesn't have to be flashy (only 1.3% said so), expensive (2.6%) or even rare (6.7%). Even creating something original (18.6%) is barely half as important as simply finding just the right thing.

Will you enjoy a carefree holiday season?

You probably will if you’re part of the second largest group. 32.8% of respondents say they feel cared-for by their significant other with literally any gift. That sentiment increases with age — the older you get, the more likely you are to be happy with anything.

Price: If it was expensive, I know they care 2.60% 27
Wow factor: If it was flashy, or big, I know they care 1.35% 14
Rarity: If it’s a one-of-a-kind, or hard to find, I know they care 6.65% 69
DIY: If it’s something they made or customized, I know they care 5.98% 62
Creativity: If it’s something they created with me in mind, I know they care 12.63% 131
Attention: If it’s something that really fits me, I know they care 34.14% 354
Literally Anything at All: If they get me anything, I know they care 32.79% 340
Nothing: I don’t believe in gifts 3.86% 40

Does this information help you shop this year? Or, does it make you even more nervous? Let us know in the comments below.


About The AtmosFX Celebration Census

The AtmosFX Celebration Census is an ongoing study into people’s spending patterns and behavior that provides insights into celebration and popular culture.

The data in this report was collected exclusively for AtmosFX by an independent survey company in November 2017. The sample size was 1,000 individual responses, via a blind online panel, distributed across gender, age, and location in the United States. Most responses are within a 3.4% confidence interval.

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