Economist Advises: For a Happier Christmas, Spend Less


When Dan Ariely recently took his kids to a birthday party, he didn't expect a lesson in how to celebrate the holidays, let alone a tutorial in economics. But as clowns and inflatables entertained the children and the parents feasted on wine and sushi, he found himself pining for old fashioned birthday cake and soda. For Ariely, a behavioral economist and author of Predictably Irrational, it was a near-perfect example of what's known in his trade as a social coordination problem, and a big demonstration of why many people grow to dislike what should be festive occasions. Put simply, our parties and gifts need to be on par with our peers' or we become unhappy.