High return on investment presents. Last minute Christmas gifts. Economists argue that buying presents is a value loss as recipients do not value the gifts at the same value as bought.
These economists suggest cash is the best gift as economic value is not destroyed. Tim Harford in the FT (Link here, behind paywall) in 2016 looked at Joel Waldfogel’s notorious research paper, The Deadweight Loss of Christmas, Waldfogel showed that gifts typically destroy value, in the sense that the giver had to pay more to buy the gift than the recipient would ever have been willing to spend on it.
Richard Thaler Might disagree (post here) arguing rational “hominem economist” is fantasy. Cash gifts are frowned open.
I have several gift ideas which have a high RoI. These gifts utilise the equation:
Time + Unique + You = Priceless a gift of time and attention and thought.
Poetry/Writing: Write them a poem. Write them out your favourite poem. Record a video or audio of you reading a poem (or short story) to your loved one.
Even for the young child who has everything, they won't have a video of you reading their favourite book.
Write a letter about a time together or why they are important to you.
Recipes: Collect recipes from friends and write them in a book. A short story about their importance is a welcome touch.
If you take the time to create/make/cook some thing, this has “positive value” both economically and socially. There are many items in the read/eat/drink category that most people enjoy.
Cook some thing, make a cake; confit a duck leg (recipe here, keeps for 6 months); order some green coffee beans, roast them yourself for a coffee lover, present them with roasted beans (worth over 10x the green bean value plus 30 minutes or so roasting time, I’ve done it in a pan similar to this). You can brew your own gin, ginger ale, make lemonade.
You can make simple jewelry, with a little more time you could learn to knit or something to actually make a garment, though I appreciate that is probably above what can be easily achieved.
You can make them a mix tape / CD / on line mix -- with personal commentary. The mix tape was a teenage rite of love in decades past.
Busy parents might appreciate a "voucher" for baby sitting time offered by the gifter. We value experiences more than objects when it comes to happiness.
One final note, for those who mostly have what they want. A charitable donation to the receivers’ favourite charities - most countries, you gain some tax back, could also be a positive return.
If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Or Charlie Munger on always inverting. Or Ray Dalio on Principles.
Read about my questions to a dying man, on how to live a life well lived.
Or, a thought about the narrative of Bitcoin.