Gift Stories Not Stuff

With the holiday season here, many of us spend hours thinking about buying gifts for our family and friends.  It’s hard to think of something creative and unique. It can feel overwhelming. We search for the perfect gift but can’t find it. At the last minute we cave to “just buy something.”  This leads to more stuff — momentary smiles for a gift that ends up on the shelf.

Over the years I’ve changed my philosophy about gifts. Gift giving should be enjoyable! We don’t need more stuff that brings minutes of happiness and then is discarded. We don’t need more things in our home.  Experiences — not things — create memories.

Behavioral economists have studied this in detail — you can find lots of articles by smart people in impressive journals and magazines. Michael Norton, Professor at Harvard, says spending money on new experiences yields more happiness than spending it on new products. The chart above from The Atlanticcompares positive emotions from experiences to material things.

How to give experiences

This holiday season, I hope to inspire you to think differently about gifts in three simple steps:

  1. Grab a blank sheet of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. At the top, write the person’s name.
  2. On the left, brainstorm a list of their hobbies, likes, interests, passions.  For example: travel, golf, theater, adventure, food, fishing, learning new things, photography, watersports, reading.
  3. On the right side, think of one experience related to the ideas on the left.  For example, if you wrote food on the left, you could write cooking classes or a food tour.  If you wrote adventure on the left, you could write a kayak trip or hang-gliding lesson on the right.

Here’s a quick list I did for my girls:

Are you hesitant about wrapping a piece of paper that says something like “certificate good for one cooking class?” Simply create a beautiful homemade envelope or box and wrap that up.

Experiences have added bonuses, too. Your special someone enjoys the anticipation of the upcoming fun. And if the gift is an activity that you share, you will make memories together.

Of course we all know kids sometimes just want “stuff” and books are always a good gift for anyone. I’m not advocating to replace every gift with an experience.  But I do believe that at least one will make the holidays special!

Support a favorite cause

I like to plan experiences that support causes that are dear to my heart — for example supporting local businesses run by women. To inspire you, I’ve put together a list below.  For those of you who don’t live in the Upper Valley, you can easily find similar ideas in your hometown.

Blowout at Maven Salon

Private yoga class with Maeghan, the owner of BYUV

Language lessons at Rassias

Tickets to a show or an improv or acting class at Northern Stage

French facial at the new Abigail Zsenai salon in Hanover

KAF baking class

Cooking class at Sugar Glider Kitchen
(Note: classes sell out in less than 5 minutes, so I suggest you purchase a specific class to gift)

Buy a Puppies in the Pub dinner at Puppy Junction to help save rescue dogs – held during WRJ’s first Fridays

Gift of travel

Need help? I LOVE creating trips around experiences that people love.  Send me a note and we can brainstorm together. Through my connections to creative partners all over the world, we can create something super special and unique to you.

We surprised our kids with a trip to Thailand years ago and it was our favorite family vacation ever.  Our kids missed a few days of school and I notified the teachers in advance, asking them to keep it a secret. With advance planning you can make it work.

Whatever you do this holiday – consider replacing some “stuff” that in hours, days, or weeks may sit on a shelf with gifting experiences that create a lifetime of memories.
Happy Holidays!

Extraordinary Experiences for
Adventurous Families

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