Twelve Posts of Christmas–The gift of Experience

Ahhhh. Another gift post. In my defense…it’s kind of an important part of the season.

When it comes to gift giving, my priorites have definitely shifted over the last few years. Even as recently as three or four years ago, all the family members would be pressured to make a list about three to four months before christmas and then we would all race to find things on the list. Of course, the things that went on the list were often thoughlessly placed on there under threat and panic. And the gifts purchased were usually not exactly what someone had in mind. Inevitably, you exchanged the gift for store credit and just bought yourself the shoes or sweater or phone case you really wanted in the first place, but couldn’t buy for yourself because you put it on your list three months before Christmas. I really appreciate the way that my family has changed the gift giving dynamic because it allows us to be more considerate in our gift giving. Instead of rushed emails that are copies and forwarded to everyone, we now have more personal conversations about what we’re involved in, what we would enjoy, where we like to go, what we would like to do. More and more I find myself wanting to give the gift of experiences. Imagine my gratification when I came across this article in MSN Money.

Indeed, the article talks about how in order to “choose such a gift, you need to know the recipient’s taste in music, theater, magazines or museums, ” and that “the right experience gift rates high on the happiness scale.” Getting someone something they will never use it a waste of money, so it really is imporant to really have meaningful conversations with the giftee so that you can both enjoy the experience.

The article gives ten suggestions for experience gifts, and for the most part they are great ideas. I would like to add to that list movie theater passes (I highly recommend the iPic), gift cards to favorite restaurants, tickets to interesting private industry tours (i.e., breweries and distillaries) and specialty store gift cards, including fancy tea and coffee shops. I think that some people think of gift cards or tickets or whatever you want to call these gifts are “cop out” gifts and indicate thoughtlessness. But only thoughtless gifts are thoughtless. For example, a Barnes and Noble gift card for someone that has a Kindle or a Magazine subscription for someone that hates getting mail is not only inconsiderate… it is a waste of your time and energy, even if minimal, and your money! However, a Barnes and Noble gift card to a Nook reader is potentially hours and hours of entertainment. The article mentioned above points out that experience gifts may “put a burden on the recipient, so it’s important to make sure you’ve made a good choice. A spa day may sound like a wonderful gift for a new mother, for example, but it isn’t a great gift if she has to pay for a babysitter or pay for extra services and a tip once she arrives.” The bottom line is that you need to know your recipient and do your research.

These types of gifts are great for those wanting to explore their communities and enjoy new experiences. They are also a great way to allow someone to spoil themselves a little bit by buying something they would normally no indulge in. They often take just as much thought and research as gifts you can wrap in big, pretty boxes.

If you have a great idea for an experience gift, please share. Or, if you’re received an awesome experience gift, or a miserable fail, I’d love to hear about it.

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