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Different Motives of Gift-Giving

Charlene loves all things home related and has a wide range of knowledge/skills learnt day-to-day as a caregiver, home-maker, mom and wife


The holidays are a time of giving and receiving, but how much do you really know about gift-giving? Gifts can be given for lots of reasons; however, the giver may have an underlying motive.

Let's look at some examples:

  • To look good in front of others

This is one of the most prevalent motives for gift giving. It's not always conscious, but it happens a lot more than you think! Gifts that help people "fit in" with their peers are popular presents for this reason. To show off wealth and power behind closed doors by purchasing extravagant gifts for your special someone can be a way to make sure people who see them will think highly of you. A simple gift like a new coffee table or some nice bedsheets would work best if you're trying to enhance your social status.

  • To show off wealth and power in front of others

This is the opposite of the motive listed above. People who give such extravagant gifts to those around them do so to let everyone know how rich they are! Even if the receiver doesn't want or needs such lavish presents, it may be hard to turn down a huge mansion or an expensive car. Sometimes these types of people go as far as giving their friends and family members matching presents (like four watches that look exactly alike).

  • To prove that you're superior

This motive is common in many aspects of life! It's basically when someone gives their friends or family members presents that they know will impress them. They could be high-tech gadgets, rare items, expensive cars, etc... The receiver thinks highly of this person for their generosity and might even think more highly of themselves for having such good ties with this special individual.

  • As a selfish act

Sometimes people just want to give gifts without any underlying reason behind them. Maybe they've gotten used to buying things for their parents or siblings during the holidays, but it's not always necessary. People who buy presents for themselves are generally seeking external validation from others by giving gifts. They often wait until Christmas morning when everybody is opening theirs to open theirs! This way other people will see what they got and be impressed/envious of them...

  • For entertainment purposes

This motive is often overlooked, but it can be quite prevalent! Presents are supposed to bring joy to others, so what better way than to give them something they've always wanted? It's basically satisfying their dreams for a day.

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  • Constructive criticism

This motive may make people uncomfortable, but it definitely exists. Some people give gifts because they know the receiver will probably hate it or need another one soon. If you haven't been dating/spending much time with someone and want to test the waters, buying presents around the holidays might lead to some solid information on how this person feels about you.

  • To show that they care

Presents are definitely about the present giver, but they also serve as a way to make others happy. If you give someone a gift, it's essentially telling them "I care about you" or "I appreciate everything you've done for me." Some people would rather put thought into their presents instead of spending large amounts on expensive gifts. These gifts aren't always about money; however, they can revolve around experiences. Giving somebody tickets or backstage passes for a concert/game/race could be one way that you show someone that you really appreciate them! Maybe your best friend would like to go see her favorite band in concert, but she can't afford the tickets. Just because you don't have money doesn't mean that your friendship means nothing; there are always other ways to show people how much you care.

Sometimes the reason why some people give presents is that they want others' validation. They want to be remembered during this holiday season and receive thanks/praise from those around them. You don't have to buy things to show that you care! Perhaps buying somebody lunch after helping them with something could suffice...

  • To thank someone for something they did or didn't do

This could be anything from bringing over your favorite movie so your friend doesn't have to drive back home to help you move all your furniture to buy presents for the teachers and coaches who helped you succeed in sports and school. It's important not to acknowledge their kindness too frequently or they probably won't want to help you out again! Gifts work best when there was only one time you helped them. If your friend is constantly bringing over food or offering to help you with anything that you need, then maybe they are doing it out of obligation.

  • To show affection

Gifts can come in the form of clothes, letters, flowers, mp3 players filled with their fav songs (One Direction works too!), perfume/cologne, etc... With this type of gift-giving, it's important to make sure that the person will like what you get them by asking around with their friends and family members! If they really like One Direction but hate spicy food (like my mom), I would never give them a jar of hot sauce. You don't want your feelings toward someone or love for them to be unrequited.



Gift-giving isn't always altruistic! It's a sad but true fact. It was a hard list to write but hopefully, it does not make you feel jaded about gift-giving. This was done more to help you to recognize your motives for giving and maybe reassess it. People often do not know any better when it comes to the way they perceive something until it is brought to their attention but once they are aware it becomes a choice. So hopefully this list above made you have some lightbulb moment or then again maybe not...

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Charlene Gallant

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