By Jodi Milner

Jodi Milner author/bio pic

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re anything like me, there are a handful of people on your list that you still need to shop for. Chances are, they are the kind of person that appreciates extra special gifts that match their interests, gifts that show that you put a lot of thought into them. 

I’d like to present a twist on gift-giving. While things are nice to have, especially when they are needed, consider creating experiences instead. Why? Finding the perfect thing is nearly impossible these days. If you’re trying to show interest in someone’s hobby by giving them an item they might need, chances are they might already have it, or prefer a different brand. Yes, you could always get them a gift card, but that often comes across as impersonal.

An experience, however, is different. Doing something together with someone you like shows that you want to spend more time with them, that you appreciate them, and that you are interested in them. Who wouldn’t like that? Experiences are all the more important when it comes to giving to those who have limited storage or a tendency to stick to the familiar. A thing is momentary, a memory can last forever.

A thing is momentary, a memory can last forever.

There have been several studies comparing purchases of material possessions vs experiential purchases and as a whole, those who seek out experiences tend to be happier and have a more rounded outlook on life than those focused on the material. They also tend to be more generous.

Become an expert experience shopper

When it comes to creating experiences, creativity is key. Easy picks tend to be watching movies or going out to eat together. These are great, especially if you have shared favorite movies or foods you love to enjoy together. However, there is a world of possibilities out there to choose from. Maybe you could take a class together, either virtual or in person. You could go bird watching or feed the ducks at a favorite park. 

The very best experiences come from when you take the interests of your loved one in mind and tailor an outing just for them. If they love art, consider finding an interesting exhibit or exhibition that you could enjoy together. If you want to be super extra, finish the outing with a getting a favorite treat. Cookies, anyone?

If this is something that’s unusual for your family and friends, it might need some explaining. For some, their definition of a gift is a thing and that’s tough to get over. You get to show them just how magical an experience together can be. Then, you make it magical by taking care of all of the details and making it oh so easy for them to enjoy themselves.

…make it magical by taking care of all of the details and making it oh so easy for them to enjoy themselves.

That said, you know your family and friends best. There are always a few in every group who are set in their ways and for whom creating an experience might not work. Don’t sweat it. Chances are, they generally aren’t happy with most gifts, regardless of how thoughtful. You might as well get them a snowglobe or a candle and call it good.  

Memories create less clutter

As an introvert, I don’t go out often unless I have a really good reason to. Once I’m out, I’m usually happy (at least for a little while, malls still exhaust me!) and I’m glad I’ve done it. I’m also a bit of an emotional hoarder where I struggle with getting rid of things – especially gifts that came from family members that I can’t use or don’t know what to do with. 

For both of these reasons, I love getting experience-type gifts. It shows me that the person has put some thought into the gift, wants to spend more time with me, and best of all, I get out of the house and hoard memories instead of stuff.   

Discussion question: What’s an experience you’ve had that surprised you by how much you enjoyed it?


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