Gift Ideas for Giving Experiences

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Gift giving is a major part of most holiday traditions this time of year as much as any other part such as family parties and delicious food. Even though gift giving (and receiving) is a load of fun, as I’ve gotten older, the gift part isn’t such an exciting part of the holidays anymore. And it’s not because of petty things like not getting what I want. I believe it boils down to one thing.

I’m tired of getting “stuff.”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten really fond of giving experiences instead of things. Giving someone a gift they can experience is much more fulfilling, for both you and the recipient, than traditional baubles and toys.

But before I lose you, let me explain what I mean by “stuff.”

What is “Stuff?”

“Stuff” is in quotes because it’s meant to be very generic. These sorts of gifts are things that people, or you, have no use for after the initial phase. They are the sort of gifts that you think are cool, but after a few weeks (or less), you lose interest. After this phase, this sort of gift collects dust on a shelf or gets buried in a closet.

This is not me saying that you should no longer give any sort of material or physical gift whatsoever.

In fact, some of the best experiences can come from actual things. For example, my wife gave me a pack of twelve 12×18 classic Disney World attraction posters to hang up in my office at home. To give you an idea of what they look like, here is the attraction poster for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirates of the Caribbean Classic Attraction Poster
Pirates of the Caribbean Classic Attraction Poster

Since it would be extremely expensive to buy me the experience of a trip to Disney World for Christmas, my amazing wife got me something that would remind me of Disney World.

Best. Gift. Ever.

I admit, though, that giving gifts like this takes some work. However, I can guarantee you that it will be completely worth it. Whomever you give it to will love it because it really takes some thought and forces you to get to know them.

Here are some ways that you can give some experiences and not just random “stuff” this holiday season.


Give Something Sentimental

As I mentioned, my perfect gift was the attraction posters from Disney World. Why? Disney World trips hold a lot of sentimentality for me. Some of my best memories have been at Disney World so this gift was perfect.

My dad passed away when I was 11. The very last vacation I took with my dad was to Disney World. Disney World is where my wife and I had our honeymoon (albeit 5 years late). My brother and I have taken trips to Disney World together. My best friend and I have taken trips together. I’ve gotten to experience Disney World for the first time all over again through my two little girls. Those posters really were the perfect gift for me.

Giving something that reminds someone of a trip or other great memory will trigger memories of those events. In essence, they will allow you to relive them in the moment. This is similar to why people hang up photos of their weddings and other special moments in their lives. It reminds them of those events and brings back those fond memories.

You can also give gifts that remind someone of someone else. Giving some sort of trinket that will remind someone of a hero, a grandparent, or anyone else that means the world would be a great gift.

Take Your Kids Shopping for Families that Cannot Afford Gifts

Christmas time is one of the best times to instill a sense of giving and gratefulness into children. There are so many fundraisers held by various companies, charities, and churches to raise money for families that are in need.

Here’s the idea.

Tell your kids that you would like their help in giving to families that may not be able to afford Christmas gifts and ask them if they would like to help you pick out the toys. Then, after they pick out the gift, have your children (not you) give them to the organization that is providing them for the children in need.

While at the organization, or even while shopping, explain to your kids why you’re giving to other families who are in need. This can teach them to be mindful of more than just themselves.

You can even give your kids money to personally put in those red Salvation Army buckets you see outside almost every department store and all over cities. Again, explaining exactly what they are doing will help foster a sense of generosity in your kids.

What an experience for your kids to be a part of giving during the holiday season!

Save the Money to Spend on a Family Vacation

Now, this may sound selfish, but the family vacation I’m talking about is not just you, your spouse, and your kids. I’m talking getting everyone in your family to agree, and instead of giving Christmas gifts to each other, use that money to go on a big family vacation and have a blast with the entire family.

If for some reason or another you are not able to connect with your family, this idea can also be used with friends. Instead of exchanging gifts with your friends, go out and take a trip together.

Taking a vacation with your friends or family will create memories not only in the moment, but that will also last a lifetime. Besides, on those years you decide to exchange gifts, it’ll give you some great ideas for giving something sentimental. 😉

Do Something for Someone

If you’re saying to yourself (or yelling at your screen) that you can’t afford to give an experience or can’t figure out anything sentimental to give, this is the perfect chance to do something for someone rather than give them something.

Let’s be honest. Not only is there less we need the older we get, the toys we want are more expensive too. I would love a new iPad since I still have a turtle, er, iPad 2. However, the one I want with enough storage is $699. Ain’t nobody gonna get me that for Christmas. Not even my wife.

Take this opportunity to do something for someone such as deep clean their house for them. You could also offer to shovel their driveway all winter for them. If you are on the younger side of life with grandparents, you could give the gift of cutting their lawn once summer rolls around so they don’t have to pay someone to do it for them.

If you are looking for something super impactful and you have the ability to be very generous, paying someone’s bill for the month following the holidays is a great idea. Imagine, the feeling (for both you and them) if you pay their car payment for January.

Doing something for someone can be great for saving money as well. For instance, offering to deep clean someone’s house would cost you only about $20 (or less!) in fresh cleaning supplies. Shoveling or cutting someone’s lawn would cost you nothing more than time. That is unless you’re dying to try that new shovel you saw at the store that’s supposed to make shoveling a breeze. 😉

Give a Gift Card

I had to include this one in here for a specific reason so hear me out. This isn’t just your run of the mill “giving a gift card means you didn’t think about what they wanted” sort of thing.

As I mentioned above, my wife (or anyone I know for that matter) would not be able to give me a Disney World trip for Christmas, as much as I would graciously accept. This may be the case for you as well.

You may be thinking of a certain experience that would be perfect for your sister, but there is no way you are able to spend the amount it costs. You could get her a gift card instead that would help her pay her way.

To make it even more impactful, you could get the whole family involved. For example, if your sister is planning on going to Spain but is waiting to save up, you and the rest of your family could all get her gift cards to help her out instead of just you. One $50 gift card doesn’t sound like much for a trip to Spain. However, get 5 more people involved and that $50 becomes $300 toward her trip. That’s a nice sizable dent in the expense of the trip!

Give Experiences Instead of Gifts

Giving something that actually can hold its value as a holiday gift can be very tricky. Most things will be forgotten just a few short weeks after Christmas.

Giving something that can be experienced, or something that is associated with one, can prolong the life of that gift indefinitely. It can end up being something really special for the person.

Have you ever gotten a gift that was tied to an experience? Have you given one before?

How did it go?

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Hey! I'm Tim.

I’m an expert budgeter, author, and Certified Financial Coach. My mission is to not only teach you money principles, but to teach you how to mold them to fit who you are and build the life you want. I don’t like typical money advice. I’ve tried to fit into a mold by using typical money advice and I had less control of my money and went further into unnecessary debt. Now, I live to teach others how to break the mold in their own lives and find their version of financial freedom. Read more about me.

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