This time of year brings about an abundance of gift giving, although giving gifts is something we do year round. The thoughts and ideas in this article are applicable in all gifting circumstances, no matter how unique of common the occasion.
This holiday season has been unique in that I find myself in a bit of a gift giving conundrum. It is now less than a week before Christmas and I haven’t purchased a single gift. Part of it is because my focus has been on shifting into my new mobile way of life rather than holiday gifts and part of it is because I’d rather give my loved ones experiences than material gifts. Interestingly my intuition about gifting meshes together perfectly with the science around value, gifts, and happiness. Hopefully you’ll find this as interesting as I do.
On Material “Stuff”
In the last week I have built friendships with many “everyday people” that happen to live and travel full time in their trailers. If you met them at Starbucks, you’d never guess their lifestyle was so different than most people. They have jobs, they have families, they have pets, they wear normal clothes… they seem average. Although, how they live is not typical at all.
What impressed me most was the simplicity and quality of their “stuff.” One couple, Chad and Rebekah, are in their 30s and have been living in their 25 foot Airstream with their dog “Dijon” for two and a half years. Their trailer was spotless and minimalist- it looked like a showroom model: beautiful, no clutter, and only the essentials. They invited me to ride to dinner with them and I sat comfortably in the back seat of their Toyota Tundra, which was clean and free of clutter. In fact, most people who have houses and garages have more in their backseat than Chad and Rebekah. They are extremely happy, travel freely, and love life… All the while owning very few material things. After meeting so many people that live for experiences while owning very little, I am realizing more and more that gifts of experience are far better than material things.
Back to gifts—Gifts can be material things, experiences, a kind word or even a gentle hug at just the right time. Your complete presence and a listening ear are also gifts. BUT…. Most people would think that you were quite strange (and cheap) if you wrapped yourself in a bow and presented your “presence” to a loved one as their gift! So, let’s give gifts!! Gift giving research shows the benefits of giving experiences is monumental compared to giving material items.
Why experiences? When considering why we give gifts, there are many reasons. One of the fundamental reasons is to connect and foster relationships. Science Daily suggests: “People often struggle with the challenge of choosing what to give someone. If you want to give them something that will make them feel closer to you, give an experience.” Another idea: Make it an experience that involves you and your loved one! Depending on your relationship and logistics, sharing the experience could up the gift giving ante even more for both the giver and the receiver.
Deciding What to Give
If you’d like to give an experience, but now wonder what to give, here are some ideas: What does your loved one enjoy doing, but rarely treats themselves to? What are his/her hobbies? What is something they have always wanted to do? What is a new or exciting experience you can share with them?
- A gift certificate to a movie, play, or concert and a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant: Your loved one can treat themselves and their special someone to a night on the town.
- Gift them a skydiving experience, kayak or canoe rental, a gym membership, a museum pass, or tour of an art gallery.
- Maybe they love to read: Consider eBook certificates, a year’s subscription to their favorite magazine, or internet membership site.
- For families: tickets to a theme park, adventure course, or an annual state or national park pass.
- For kids: A pizza party at an entertainment facility. A day at the beach or the park for them and 3-5 of their friends (you can provide their favorite picnic lunch too).
The possibilities are limitless! What ideas do you have? Please post them in the comments below.
Wrapping it All Up
We’ve all heard the old adage “it’s better to give than to receive.” Now we may have to add: “It’s better to give and receive experiences than anything else at all.” In the big scheme of things we all want to experience joy and happiness: We want to be happy and we want our loved ones to be happy. What constitutes happiness is different for everyone.
One thing is for sure: happiness doesn’t come from things. I love the saying “The most important things in life aren’t things.” Fostering and deepening relationships is one of the most important things in life. We each express love in our own unique way. Gifts are just one of the many expressions of love. This holiday season (and for the rest of your days): Give love. When choosing your gifts, be creative. Love what you give and give what they love… no matter what that might be.
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Festivus, or anything else — I hope you have a very happy holiday filled with connections, love, and joy.
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