Should You Send Birthday Presents Late?

I live in a different place than does the rest of my family and do some of my friends. That means that I sometimes have to send birthday presents. I am awful at it. In fact, my sister's present for last year reached her so late that when this year's present surprisingly arrived on time, she asked me what she had done to deserve a "second" present. I am writing this post in an obvious attempt to ease my conscience. (Philosophical question: Is that a paradoxical statement?)

Which would be more fun: Buying one CD on Saturday one, one on Saturday two and one on Saturday three or buying three CDs on Saturday two? I'll go for the first option and I guess so would most people: 3*1 is more fun than 1*3.

If that is true, this means that the common way of delivering birthday presents is not utility-maximizing. Receiving one present each month of the year would be much better than receiving twelve at the same time. You can't change social norms single-handedly, but what you can do is send birthday presents late. A bit of a crutch, but better than nothing.

The increase in utility that the receiving person experiences of course has to be weighed against the decrease in utility that occurs due to the feeling that "He didn't send anything on time, I am obviously not important to him...", blah, blah, blah. But at least it is not a foregone conclusion that sending birthday presents late is a bad thing.


(As an aside, isn't it ridiculous that my mother gives me a present for my birthday? Shouldn't it be the other way around? After all, she did a lot of work and endured a lot of pain to bring me into the world, and I don't imagine that I helped an awful lot. And I had an untypically large head. Enough said.)

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