If you’ve ever had trouble thinking of a gift for the people in your life, I have the perfect solution for you!
In a society where excess is so prevalent, one of the biggest gift-giving worries is knowing what to give the person who already has everything they want or already has enough.
It’s not just seasoned adults that fit into this category. While our parents might not want for anything, our children could also have plenty.
There are even lists of ideas for people who “already have everything,” full of wacky new gadgets or new items to add to ongoing collections.
But the truth is, most people don’t need more stuff.
For kids, stuff is exciting for a week or two (a month if you’re lucky), but then it starts to gather dust (on the shelf, if you’re lucky). Kids rooms and play areas become cluttered with the toys, games and clothes they are showered with.
While your house may not look like an episode of Hoarders (thankfully), you still probably have more stuff than you need.
What can you give that isn’t more “stuff”?
Give gifts of experience instead!
Gifts of experience are consumed, instead of turning into clutter, breaking, or gathering dust. The experiences and memories created from doing something can far outlast the pleasure of getting something.
They could be tried and true like a gift card to a favorite restaurant or a season pass to a local zoo the family loves.
Or they could be totally new like tickets to a cultural event or lessons to learn a new skill.
Gifts of experience can be adapted to whatever your budget is. I’ll start with some you can spend money on and then share some great ways that don’t cost a dime!
Spend money on gifts of experience instead of “stuff”
Here are some great ideas to get your creative juices flowing!
Tickets to a one-time event
Think sports events, plays, musicals, concerts, etc.
Last year, my in-laws received tickets to a symphony. That’s something that they both totally enjoy, but not something they would ever buy for themselves.
The hard part about this is that you usually have to pick a certain date for tickets when you have no idea what their schedule is. Usually you can get tickets far enough in advance that they can plan for it though.
Admission to fun places
Think zoos, museums, amusement parks, etc.
Instead of a ticket for a specific concert, you could also give a one-time admission to somewhere fun. Most fun places that are open year round allow you to buy admission tickets ahead of time that are good for anytime (or at least have a wide variety of options for redemption).
Lessons to learn something new
Have you ever thought of giving the gift of learning at Christmas? Whether it’s a one time pottery or painting class, a series of dance classes, or a year of piano lessons, the gift of learning is a gift that sticks.
You can often find deals on gifts of learning on Groupon or Living Social. My dad, an avid golfer, got my mom a series of golf lessons from a deal on Groupon. She was excited to learn and he was excited to have someone (that wasn’t him) teach her.
Last year my friend’s husband totally surprised her with a cello and lessons for Christmas so she could fulfill a lifelong dream to learn to play the cello.
Gift certificate for a restaurant
Whether it’s a restaurant in the area that is already a favorite, or something new they haven’t tried, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with food. Keep their personalities in mind. Some prefer dining in (and don’t mind covering a tip), while others would love getting takeout instead.
My parents can be tough to buy for. They surely don’t need any “stuff.” When they need something they just go and buy it. Last year we got them a gift certificate for a restaurant we thought they would enjoy.
Membership or Season passes to a fun or educational place
You can get a membership or season tickets at many zoos, aquariums, museums, science centers, and amusement parks. In fact, the price is often not much more than a one- or two-time admission. Depending on the location, the price may be individual or by family. When it’s a family pass or membership, sometimes the price is the same no matter the number of family members, making it a great gift for big families.
Unlike tickets to a specific event, a season pass can completely work around the person’s or family’s schedule. They can go as often as they want. In fact, it may really help the entertainment category of their budget to have something fun to do that’s already paid for. And the bonus is that they will think of you every time they use their passes.
Gifts of experience that don’t cost much
Giving an awesome gift of experience doesn’t have to cost much. Think back to the “coupons” or “vouchers” you made for your mom for mother’s day when you were young.
This coupon is good for one free hug.
Redeem this certificate for a free car wash.
Turn this ticket in for breakfast in bed.
Gifts of experience can be as simple and sweet as your mother’s day coupons from decades past. Think about a service that the recipient would really love and offer it to them as a gift. Think of how you can use your own talents and skills. Here are a few examples.
Homemade candlelight dinner for two
Car wash and detail
The list of services you could perform goes on and on. The key is that you are giving something that isn’t a physical item that takes up space. You are offering something that, while it may have a physical aspect (like pretty nails or a clean car), focuses on the experience or the process.
You could also give many of the experiences in the first list, only adapt them to be free. Here are a couple of examples:
Instead of giving a gift certificate for a restaurant, you could create a restaurant atmosphere and try your hand at some copycat recipe. Just search (on Google or Pinterest) for “copycat” plus the name of your favorite restaurant. You can also add in the dish to get even more specific results. I bet someone has done a hack on the recipe!
Instead of buying your grandchildren tickets for an event, host them for a “grandma camp” where you teach them something you’re good at (gardening, baking cookies, sewing, etc), share a yummy treat, play a favorite game and read a book. You could create “Grandma’s theater” and have a fun movie and popcorn. The best part is spending quality time with YOU!
If you have some people that you’re planning to give to this year, why not come up with a gift of experience instead of stuff? I bet it will be a hit!
I have a gift of experience up my sleeve for this Christmas, too! But I can’t tell you about it yet!
How about you?
- Have you ever given a gift of experience?
- What gifts of experience have you received?
Originally published 13 Dec 2016, but updated to be included in the Frugal Festivities series.