Rethink Holiday Presents: Giving Experiences as Gifts

Rethink Holiday Presents: Giving Experiences as Gifts

This season, give something that can’t be wrapped: an unforgettable experience.


By: Anna Newell Jones

No one wants to imagine her gift sitting unused or in the “to-be-returned” pile. During the holidays there’s a common worry that floats around involving selecting the “perfect” gift for family and friends. It can be difficult to pinpoint what people want versus what people already have and might need. Instead of an act of affection, gifting can become a very frustrating experience, which misses the entire point of buying presents in the first place.

When it comes to gift-giving, one way to make sure your gifts are used (and avoid becoming clutter) is to give the gift of experiences instead.

How to Give the Gift of Experience
When you think back in your life, you likely do not remember many actual gifts you’ve received, but you probably hold tight to the experiences you had, especially with your family and friends.

You can give that same kind of memory as an actual gift for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. Many times the gift recipient will not (or cannot) invest their own cash for such a purpose, so your gift will certainly be appreciated — which is far more rewarding than when a gift sits in a closet collecting dust.

Here are some great ideas to get you started.

Sporting Events
If your loved one enjoys football and other sports, give them the experience of a day at the game field or ballpark. Throw in some spending cash with the tickets so they can get a hot dog and a beverage. Now, these don’t necessarily have to be professional sports, either. A college or minor league game can be just as fun as their more costly pro counterparts.

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Concert Events
Buy your gift recipient tickets to see their favorite band in concert. Children will love seeing kid-friendly shows they may have otherwise missed. You can also think outside music — try taking a funny friend to an upcoming comedy show.

Romantic Getaway
If you have couples to buy for, consider planning a romantic weekend away from home within driving distance. Add a bonus gift by offering to baby-sit, pet-sit or house-sit during their time away!

Planned Adventures
If your gift recipient is a known nature-lover, give the gift of adventure. Schedule a ride on the racetrack, a day of horseback riding, a weekend scuba diving class, or even being taken up in a helicopter for an aerial view!

Lessons to Be Learned
If your loved one has a passion for education, consider covering the cost of a class they’d be interested in like scrapbooking, dance lessons or cooking.

Experience-Planning Caveat
When you plan to schedule an experience for ones you love, keep in mind that schedules will need to be accommodated. Except for concerts and other specially scheduled events, you should opt for a gift certificate to let your gift recipient make his or her own plans.

Be sure to do your research so the recipient can enjoy the gift when it works best for them. The best part is, the memories the recipient makes will far outlast a tangible gift.

The opportunity to have a special, irreplaceable experience is a gift that can last a lifetime — and you can’t put a price tag on that.



Anna is the creator of the personal finance method Spending Fast® and the frugal living blog And Then We Saved. When not being a cheapskate, she photographs weddings and other amazing things with her husband, Aaron. Her work has appeared in Self Magazine, Psychology Today, Good Housekeeping, “The Nate Berkus Show,” “CNN Money,” The Chicago Tribune, and Yahoo Finance.


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