How Come Women Are Still Buying Most of the Family’s Gifts?

It’s time for guys to step up over the holidays — here’s how to do it.

Shopping

Why do dudes suck so much at buying Christmas presents? Santa Claus is a man, and he’s amazing at the gift game.

The fact is, women are left to handle the vast majority of Christmas shopping alone, and it’s flagrantly unfair. Some men simply assume they’ll do a terrible job of it, so opt to exclude themselves from it entirely (and, to be fair, some of them are right). Others do a little bit of it, then round it up in their heads and spend the rest of the holiday season patting themselves on the back for their generosity of spirit, while the women around them actually do the brunt of the work

“I think there’s a propensity for men to be a bit less bothered about giving and receiving gifts in general, in which case they should just come out and say they can’t be bothered, rather than hiding behind excuses about it being too difficult,” says retail expert Clare Bailey, aka The Retail Champion. “The women I know who ‘do Christmas’ might be picking things up all year.”

That’s the thing with Christmas — it shouldn’t really catch anyone by surprise, having taken place on the exact same date every year for quite a while now. The Jingle All The Way method of leaving it all to Christmas Eve (and in this particular case, relying on being the size of a tree) isn’t really acceptable. There’s a month or so leading up to it where every commercial break, store display and news story is festive as hell – to be honest, it takes willful ignorance and elective laziness to end up panicked and sweaty in the mall on the 24th, looking desperately at a nearly-bare shelf and convincing yourself that what your nearest and dearest really want is a copy of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge

You’re going to have a much bigger selection, and get better deals, shopping online and doing so a little bit earlier — “planning,” they call it. And there’s also this thing, “the internet,” that’s got a lot of stuff on it. However, there are some ways in which gift-buying is a bit more complicated than it used to be. CDs and DVD box-sets were easy go-tos for a long time before streaming services and the cloud took over, just as your mom buying a Kindle means you can’t just quickly skim her bookshelves to know if she’s up to date on the weirdly murder-filled book series she can’t get enough of.

The solution? Ask people, says Bailey. “It might remove a bit of the element of surprise, but it doesn’t have to take all the fun out of it. You can just ask for a bit of a starting point to get a few ideas.” Santa himself relies on adorably misspelled notes from children, of course — getting a link or two sent over is ultimately the same idea. And surprises generally mean a lot more to the person doing the surprising than the recipient, with the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology finding that gift recipients tend to be significantly more appreciative of presents they had explicitly requested. If all else fails, go useful.

“Think about all the options there are out there to get unique presents for people you know well,” says Bailey. “If your sister loves her dog, for example, you can get her dog’s face printed on a cushion or something. A present doesn’t have to be large or expensive to be thoughtful.”

Asking people what they want, and listening to them? Thinking about Christmas before it’s right on top of you? It’s not a formula for a heartwarming holiday comedy, but it might make your own real-life holiday a whole lot happier — especially for your partner.