Is it really possible to buy nothing at Christmas - one of the most expensive times of the year for many Kiwis?

Yes, says Australian academic Paul Harrison, but the odds are against you.

"Most of us are constantly looking for ways to achieve a higher state and a better life through one of the few outlets that we feel we can control – what we buy," he wrote on the website The Conversation.

"Marketers refer to this as the 'ratchet' effect – people are never totally satisfied, so they will always be wanting something more.


"So, it becomes easier to consume and buy than it is to resist. In some circumstances, buying nothing is actually hard to do, because resisting certain items can often be emotionally and financially costly. Which leads us to the ritual buying frenzy that is loosely referred to as Christmas," he said.

Harrison says marketers are well versed in tapping into people's need to celebrate rituals like Christmas and nudge people towards purchases.

"At the same time, they are giving us permission not to think, by surrounding us with stimuli designed to overwhelm our cognitive processing.

"So when it comes to gifts, we don't plan, and so are more susceptible to the gentle nudges that the marketers give us at Christmas time - when we are stressed, in a hurry, and trying to do 10 things at once."