Experiences Instead of Gifts

The holidays have arrived, gifts are running back and forth between friends and family and everyone is stressed about the perfect gift to get their special someone. There is a new idea going around that is sustainable and interesting for new gift giving. Giving someone an experience as a gift is a new option that gives a person an opportunity to do something instead of receiving a material gift. Many people have too much stuff nowadays, at least 1 in 10 have a storage unit to store extra stuff in the United States. Our grandparents had an average of nine outfits, now the average person has about 30 outfits, plus extra clothes that don’t fit into the ‘outfit’ category. (Wellness Mama). According to the experts, stuff doesn’t bring us happiness, our relationships, involvement within our community, personal growth, and spending time are what brings us happiness. (Simplify the Holidays). So wouldn’t it be better to give these things as gifts?

A Cornell University researcher named Thomas Gilovich spent a decade trying to answer the question: material gifts or experiences. The conclusion stated that people are less happy with material purchases over time because we adapt to physical things, so the nicest and newest stuff will soon become commonplace. Experiences are a unifying factor that creates bonds and leave fond memories, whether the experience was bad or good. (Wellness Mama). 

There are hundreds of ideas out there for what experiences you could give as a gift. If you have no clue where to start, there are websites full of information and ideas. Start by thinking of the person you’re giving a gift to, do they need some self time, some friends time, some romance time, or some family time? Tailor a gift around what they need. Memberships to museums and aquariums or event tickets to galleries and concerts may be perfect for someone who is looking for an intellectual night. Connecting with nature could result in a chance to go geocaching, horseback riding, or ziplining. Offer to babysit the kids and let the receiver have a date night with no worries! The possibilities are endless. 

While this is a great way to give gifts to your friends and family, it is also a great way to give gifts sustainably. Purchasing an item as a gift results in materials being needed for that gift, shipping it wherever it needs to go, and then wrapping it in non-recyclable materials (wrapping paper isn’t recyclable!). This can result in toxic air pollution and a gift that will most likely be sent to a landfill someday. (Simplify the Holidays). All for something that a loved one will gladly take, but most likely does not even need. Giving an experience can take away a lot of the plastics and fossil fuels involved in gift giving and focus on what is important during the holiday season, making a connection to the people you love.


Looking for more information or more ideas? 

“46 Ways to Give Experiences Instead of Stuff This Year (Even Last Minute).” Wellness Mama®, 14 Dec. 2019, https://wellnessmama.com/62144/give-experiences/.

attainablesustainable. “Too Much Stuff? Make Memories with Gifts of Experiences!” Attainable Sustainable®, 1 Sept. 2021, https://www.attainable-sustainable.net/giving-experiences-instead-of-gifts/.

Simplify the Holidays, “Simplify The Holidays.” Center for Biological Diversity, https://simplifytheholidays.org/better-gift-giving. Accessed 8 Nov. 2021.