Special moments > more stuff

As soon as the final “trick or treat” is uttered on Halloween, the holiday hustle begins.

Rather than going through the motions this year by standing in line on Black Friday or filling your Amazon cart with gifts for loved ones, ask yourself: Does all this stuff actually make the people I’m giving it to happier? Do they actually need this?

Maybe this is the year to counter cultural norms with something less expected, yet more likely to give the recipient lasting appreciation.

This year, give experiences instead of material items

Part of the fun of the season is being able to lavish your loved ones with a physical expression of your care for them. You can achieve the same effect by gifting experiences versus traditional gifts.

The question of cost

The gift of an experience doesn’t have to break the bank; scale your budget to your Christmas list in the same way you would for material gifts. Opting for experience giving can even help you save money by trading a pricey gift for quality time, choosing memorable over material. The hardest part is thinking it up, so here are a few ideas for any budget.

For the frugal budget

Giving someone an experience they will treasure for years to come can be done without spending a penny. Here are a few ideas that suit a small (or nonexistent) budget:

  • Walking or driving somewhere to enjoy the season, such as a botanical garden with Christmas lights
  • A home-cooked meal with all of your spouse’s favorite foods, or a fondue-night for the whole family
  • Finding a special spot to watch a sunset, complete with flutes and a sparkling drink
  • Mani/pedi gift card (along with an offer to babysit if they have kids)
For the mid-sized budget

For couples, this might be a special dinner date to a restaurant that’s been the talk of the town. For grandparents, this could be an annual pass to a children’s museum or theme park for the family with kids. Some other ideas for a moderate budget are:

  • Spending a day at the zoo or other nearby attraction
  • Purchasing tickets to a concert or theater show
  • A spa gift card for a relaxing day out
  • Lessons in a new skill such as photography or playing guitar – or in something you can learn together like scuba-diving or horseback riding

For the extravagant budget

If you’ve been diligently saving and you’re ready to go all out, these ideas might be for you:

  • Replace wrapped presents with an overnight vacation somewhere far away. Bora Bora is calling your name.
  • Invest in long-term luxury at home by hiring a landscaper to design a beautiful backyard space for your family
  • Cross something off your loved one’s bucket list such as skydiving, renting a luxury car or going for a hot-air balloon ride
  • Gift a staycation experience created by you. Carve out a weekend to stay in a swanky hotel in town including fine dining and their favorite activities.

Prioritizing experience-based gifts can bring couples, families and friends closer together as memories are made. Give it a try this year, and remember that it’s not too late to fill your own wish list with special experiences.

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About the Author:

Megen Robbins

Megen Robbins is a contributing author to the Movement Blog, and has been a business writer for more than five years. She can't really remember what she majored in (public relations, FYI) or where she went to college (it was Auburn University), because having two children under age two removed most of her brain cells. Oddly, this also gave her the uncanny ability to string words together in ways that are playful and engaging enough to hold the attention span of just about anybody (including toddlers). When she’s not day-dreaming about alone time, Megen can be found volunteering at her church youth group.