Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

December 25, 2014

French school lunches are fit for a holiday meal

by Grace

What are you having for dinner this Christmas Day?  This sounds like a wonderful holiday meal:  endive salad with herbal vinaigrette, roast veal, pureed butternut squash, emmental cheese, and vanilla flan with caramel sauce for dessert.

But wait, this delicious meal is what a Paris student eats for lunch on a typical school day.

Nina Camic happened to see a lunch schedule posted on the side of a school during a recent trip to Paris.


I won’t translate the whole thing, but the ministry has proclaimed that today, for example (“Mardi”), children from age 3 through 10 shall eat: a salad of chopped endive for starters, along with chinese cabbage with an herbal vinaigrette, then they will proceed to roast veal with a puree of butternut squash (which shall be organic), this will be followed by two cheeses — emmental and mimolette (the latter, btw, was banned by our FDA because of the way it is manufactured — the rind depends on some mite activity and the FDA appears not to like that), and finally, there seems to be a choice of two desserts — a flan, either chocolate, or vanilla with caramel sauce. This is the main meal of the day for French kids. Supper at home is a light and simple affair.

Enjoy your holiday meal today!

December 24, 2014

The ‘deadweight loss of Christmas’

by Grace

If you’re still trying to find last-minute Christmas gifts, maybe you should relax and consider that there is a sound economic reason to give cash.  Gift-giving creates what economist Joel Waldfogel called the “deadweight loss of Christmas”, which is the monetary loss that arises from people making bad gift choices for other people.

In a 1993 American Economic Review article “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” Yale economist Joel Waldfogel concluded that holiday gift-giving destroys a significant portion of the retail value of the gifts given. Reason? The best outcome that gift-givers can achieve is to duplicate the choices that the gift-recipient would have made on his or her own with the cash-equivalent of the gift. In reality, it’s highly certain that many gifts given will not perfectly match the recipient’s own preferences. In those cases, the recipient will be worse off with the sub-optimal gift selected by the gift-giver than if the recipient was given cash and allowed to choose his or her own gift. Because many Christmas gifts are mismatched with the preferences of the recipients, Waldfogel concludes that holiday gift-giving generates a significant economic “deadweight loss” of between one-tenth and one-third of the retail value of the gifts purchased.

Gift cards may be cutting into the deadweight loss.

The real drag on the economy then isn’t gifts; it’s bad gifts. And Mr. Waldfogel cheers the rise of the gift card as a substitute for the bad gift: Something you can buy your niece or grandson when you have no idea what they actually like.

“What’s interesting about gift cards is that they are a lot like cash but have emerged as a way to give the choice to the recipient without the ickiness of cash,” he says. In other words, the deadweight loss problem he identified in 1993 may be on the wane because of a technological advance.

On the other hand, it is estimated that between 10 to 30 percent of gift cards are never used.

What’s not mentioned is the pleasure experienced from giving and receiving presents.  It’s hard to put a price on that, and we should remember that it’s the thought that counts!


Mark J. Perry, “Holiday shopping? Consider the most economically efficient gift of all: cash, and avoid the deadweight loss of Christmas”, Carpe Diem, December 17, 2014.

Josh Barro, “An Economist Goes Christmas Shopping”, New York Times, December 19, 2014.
DEC. 19, 2014.

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December 25, 2013

Economists don’t think money is the best holiday gift

by Grace

Most economists in the University of Chicago’s IGM poll said it’s absurd to give cash to loved ones for the holidays”.  Here is how David Autor of MIT put it.

Presents serve multiple interpersonal purposes. Revealed preference indicates that income transfer is not the primary one.

Lovely thought.  And here’s a Christmas card with the University of Chicago’s Steven Kaplan’s views on the matter.


All comments can be viewed at the IGM website.  Even with economists, it’s not all about the money.

Have a merry Christmas!

December 18, 2013

Cash may be the perfect holiday gift for young adults

by Grace

Recent college graduates and young adults still in college may prefer cash as a Christmas gift.

Cash gifts are often written off as too impersonal, or, as in Ms. Starkey’s case, not festive enough. But as you’re scrambling to find the perfect something for a loved one, particularly the students and graduates who collectively hold about $1.2 trillion in student debt, a little financial wiggle room might be exactly what they want and need.

A New York Times article offers specific ways to make the gift of money personal to a recipient’s needs.  Some ideas are to make a loan payment, pay tuition, or contribute to a 529 plan.

A gift of appreciated stock to someone in a lower tax bracket may benefit both parties.

APPRECIATED STOCK Given the stock market’s ascent over the last few years, you may be sitting on stock that has also risen appreciably. If you give those shares to a relative or friend in a lower tax bracket, he can sell them for cash and may pay far less in capital gains taxes than you would. The gift recipient could also use the proceeds to reinvest in broad-based index fund within that new Roth I.R.A. you helped set up.

But parents who give stock to younger children may not achieve the same sort of tax savings: The kiddie tax may apply if the child is under age 19, and in some cases up until age 24 if he is a full-time student and still receiving parental support. In that case, the child would still pay capital gains taxes at the parents’ rate, Mr. Luscombe explained.

Since I lack creative gift-giving ideas and because I believe cash is best, I usually go for the green in gifting to teens and young adults.  This year I decided to present the cash in bright red envelopes, a Chinese tradition used for monetary gifts on New Year’s and other occasions.  I think they will add a festive touch to the boring gift of cash.


Related:  How college students spend their Christmas break (Cost of College)

December 25, 2012

‘What Families Can Do When a Child May Have a Mental Illness’

by Grace

From the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

If you are worried about your child’s mental health, follow your instincts. Unexplained changes in a child’s behavior and/or mood may be the early warning signs of a mental health condition and should never be ignored.

There are many different types of mental illness, and it isn’t easy to simplify the range of challenges children face. One way to begin to get a handle on this question is to get an evaluation of your child or teen by a licensed mental health professional.  Because all children and youth are unique and the local mental health services, insurance coverage and school services vary a great deal from community to community, it is a challenge to find the right kind of help for your child.

Like many others, my family has had to deal with this issue.  You can read more about different types of mental illness and what steps parents can take to help their children at the NAMI website.

Have a joyful and peaceful Christmas.



December 25, 2011

How college students spend their Christmas break

by Grace

Hope you are enjoying your holiday break!

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