Trading Gifts for Time: the “Experience Gift”


The holiday season is upon us. Some of us are furiously trying to watch for sales and check off gifts from our lists.  Some are having the almost daily visits from the delivery man as the packages roll in from our online purchases.  And still others started many months ago and are now just trying to remember where they hid those perfect gifts. 

The holiday gift giving hubbub can be all consuming.  I used to love to hunt for, procure, and deliver what I thought to be the perfect gift. But it seemed all too often, I’d watch it be quickly forgotten, thrown aside, or just not as loved as much as I had anticipated. 

Gift of Time

So, a few years ago I swapped gifts for time.  I started finding ways to spend time with the recipient, doing something they love, as a gift.  I’ve now done this for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and many other celebrations.  I’ve done this for my kids, my husband, family members, and lots of friends. 

You know what?  It’s actually going really well! 

I still set a budget for the gift — whether holiday or birthday — then I just find an experience the person will enjoy and spend my money on that.  I’m finding it is more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. 

These “experience gifts” are a blast!  We’ve visited a cupcake bakery, sampled delicious cupcakes, and toured the kitchen.  We went to a local virtual reality shop where we shot paintball guns, jumped from building-to-building chasing bad guys, and worked the sushi line of a Japanese restaurant — virtually — of course.  We’ve been ziplining, attended sporting events, toured local art museums with immersive exhibits, solved escape rooms, taken cooking classes, and toured breweries, wineries, and distilleries.  The time has been informative, interesting, and FAR more memorable and fun than any gift I could ever give.  And sometimes, it was even free!

Gift of Travel

This year we are taking the “experience gift” to the next level.  We are traveling over the holidays as our family gift.  My family decided, now that the kids are older, there really aren’t any toys they need, and the money would be better spent on a family trip.  We know our time together is getting short with my daughter being a junior in high school, and we would much rather enjoy time spent together, exploring a new place, than unwrapping toys that will most likely need an upgrade before the next holiday season arrives. 

Can I tell you that we are ALL beyond excited for this trip?  There isn’t a day that goes by that my kids don’t mention how much they are looking forward to it and all the fun we will have.  And really isn’t that what the holidays are all about — enjoying some much-needed down time with family and making unforgettable memories?  I really can’t wait!

Gift of Experience

If you haven’t tried it, maybe this holiday season is the time to start branching out.  Don’t run yourself (and your pocketbook) ragged picking up what you think is the perfect gift, only to be disappointed at the response.  Sit down and plan out some special time to share with friends and loved ones.  It can be as easy as sharing a meal, going for a hike, or trying a new craft.  I encourage you to try trading gifts for time.  Give someone you love the “experience gift.”  You might just love it and your pocketbook may even thank you!