More on the Season of Giving

They say a new car drops in value the most after driving off the lot. Now studies show the same is true for gifts.

Spending on gifts alone was estimated to increase 2.1 percent this year from last to $518.08, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

But recent behavioral studies are finding that when you give a gift, the recipient automatically values it lower than its actual worth – up to 18 percent less. That means the $499 iPad drops to $409 in a fraction of the time it took to wrap it.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based WePay – a group payment service – found that at least one gift per person is never opened (42 percent), returned (38 percent) or re-gifted (28 percent). The most valuable gifts are given from significant others, then grandparents, based on the study. Poor ole aunts and uncles came in last, even after the in-laws.

But that’s not all. Americans will spend $91 billion in gift cards this holiday season, and a whopping $2.5 billion will go unused.

And despite being a universally despised gift item, one in four Americans consider giving a fruitcake every year. So if you’re an aunt or uncle giving a fruitcake, you’re really out of luck.