I’ve written a bunch of times about the value of experiences over things—about spending your money and time on experiences rather than stuff.
My wife and were in a home goods store recently and she was looking for a birthday present for her sister. She was struggling to find something when I said, “Why don’t you take her to a Broadway show or take her out to dinner rather than buying her something she doesn’t need?”
Similarly, when my wife asked me soon after that for suggestions for a birthday present for my daughter, I suggested a gift certificate for a restaurant near where she lives.
In both cases, the presents were greatly appreciated and enjoyed. In both cases, the experiences created memories. Experiences, not things, are a great happiness choice, for yourself, and also when giving gifts.
When I was a kid, the way Hanukkah worked in my house, and in most houses I knew, eight nights meant eight gifts. When kids who celebrated Christmas expressed envy at the idea of eight nights of gifts, we quickly explained, our eight gifts added up to less than one gift most of them seemed to receive for Christmas. I’m sure that was for a couple of reasons: our parents didn’t want to spend money on eight big gifts, and it’s hard to think of eight things your kids actually need.
My mom got tired of the whole thing and one year she started to give us gift certificates. But these weren’t gift certificates to stores. These were homemade gift certificates redeemable for family experiences. For example, a night out as a family. Or my favorite, a certificate redeemable for a week without having to do my assigned chore: taking out the garbage. I’ve heard of families giving a child a certificate for an afternoon alone with one of the parents.
My wife and I were also extremely fortunate to have received an amazing experience as a wedding present. Friends of my parents owned a condo in Cancun, Mexico and let us use it for a week for our honeymoon. That gift is one of the only wedding presents we received I still remember. I know that was a big gift, but that’s not why it was memorable. It was memorable because it was an experience, instead of a “thing” (like a vase, a candy dish, or a cheese plate).
What are experiences you have given or received as gifts? Please join the conversation with your comments…