Giving the Gift of An Experience

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Is the idea of gift giving changing?

Have you heard of “experience” gifts?

It seems to be an idea that is gaining momentum and I want to advocate for it this holiday season.

There are two ways to look at the gift of an experience:

  1. You the giver are giving a gift of doing something with the receiver (i.e. going to a theater production together and possibly dinner beforehand).
  2. You the giver are giving a non-tangible gift to someone without the expectation of going together (ie. a gift certificate for a pedicure).

Why would you give the gift of an experience together?

A couple of months ago I went to my Uncle’s funeral. He was a great man who lived a rich life in his 76 years on this earth. He raised five daughters and was blessed with 8 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. At the wake people were invited up to share stories about him. Several of his grandchildren bravely spoke about their memories with him. Do you know what they spoke about?

It wasn’t that he got them a really cool gift for their 13th birthday. It was about Grandpa taking them to their first Minnesota Vikings football game, or the many breakfasts that Grandpa took them out to and the conversations they had there. They spoke about going to Minnesota Twins games and garage sales in search of treasures.  At his funeral his daughters gave his eulogy and spoke about the love and admiration he had for each of them. What they tried to convey to everyone there was how his greatest gift to each of them was teaching them they could do anything. Can you guess how he did that?

It wasn’t with tangible gifts. It was with an open ear, a few wise words here and there, a shoulder to cry on and arms to hug.

This is not to say that tangible gifts do not have a place, they most certainly do. However I believe that the gift of an experience together is far more lasting and treasured to the receiver.

I cannot tell you a single gift that any of my grandparents gave me over the years, but I can tell you how much fun I had baking cookies with my Nana and shortbread with my Grandma. I remember how special I felt when I got to go with Nana on the Aldi shopping trip and help bag up her groceries. I remember donut/breakfast dates with Grandpa – he always knew all the old ladies. (hmmm….might be the reason he brought cute grandkids with him)

Most of those toys from my childhood are gone, but what remains are the memories. The memories of fun times with family and friends both living and those who have passed away.


Why would you choose the gift of an experience for someone?

Simply put – most people have too much stuff. (editor’s note: or so Megan thinks) (yes, I firmly stand by this statement much to the disagreement of my editor/husband).

I have to admit that I aspire to a minimalist life – Brian doesn’t so we’ll have to find a happy middle ground.

It seems that the more toys that my kids have in the house the less they play with and the faster they get bored.

I would love to see my children receive less “stuff” and instead have more experiences. These could be experiences with the gift giver or not (i.e. pool passes, museum memberships, etc.). I’m also not opposed to money for their 529 Education Savings Plan – the gift of a college education isn’t so bad. Okay, I admit that one’s pretty boring for kids though.

As I’ve gotten older it seems harder every year to think of things I want when I am asked to supply a gift list. After much thought I figure some items out, but what I really want are more experiences. Going to a theater production, getting a massage or a pedicure or even an entire spa day would be magical. This year I did add to my list “a weekend of babysitting services so I could go to a scrapbook weekend.”

These are the things I really want. However I understand tangible gifts are still more comfortable for many gift givers and I can respect that. I also respect that for some people their love language is gifts. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

I am not suggesting you never buy gifts again, because gifts can be nice. Try to think of ways to give the gift of an experience too.

In our own family, for the girls’ birthdays we successfully combined tangible with experience. The girls each got one smaller gift. Then a couple of days after their birthdays we went on a mini family vacation. We rented a small cabin in South Bend, IN. We spent 3 nights and 3 days relaxing and doing day trips around the area. It was one of the best vacations ever and the girls loved it. I’m certain that vacation will be remembered far longer than the gift they received for that birthday.

What is the best experience gift you have given or received?

3 thoughts on “Giving the Gift of An Experience”

  1. Megan this blog is amazing! It keeps getting better -if that’s possible(despite the editor)
    Not to forget your question…my best experience gift was my 40th birthday weekend with my sisters!!
    Love you!

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