Experience gifts make the best gifts in my opinion. And yes, this is from testing this out with a number of kids and teens.
Not only my own but giving gifts to other kids in our family, as well as my kid’s friends.
What Are Experience Gifts
Experience gifts are gifts that allow a child or teen to gain a particular experience in life instead of (or in addition to) receiving a physical gift.
Experience gifts keep the kids active and actually make them happier. While they are soon to forget a toy, the memory of an experience is something they remember for years.
While they’re always happy receiving a new material possession, a generic gift card or just some cash, these gift experiences are something they won’t forget anytime soon.
Some examples of experience gifts are:
- Bowling passes
- Theatre tickets
- Behind-the-scenes tour
- Special classes
- Day or weekend trip to explore a new city
And that’s because they’re not just receiving something they’ll forget about in a week or two, they’re making new memories which is one of the best things we can do for them.
Plus, you get to spend more quality time together (and usually they’re not as grumpy too. If that’s not a bonus, I don’t know what is!). I mean, active teens are happy teens because they’re engaged in something more meaningful.
At the end of the day, I want to help them experience life and not just stuff. I want to show them there is more to do in life and how to go about creating those experiences, rather than just waiting for them to happen (which doesn’t!).
And for me, an added bonus is that experiences are better for the environment as they don’t come wrapped in plastic or end up in landfills.
One thing that holds many people back from switching from material gifts to experience gifts, is imagining their teens on Christmas morning without a Christmas gift to open.
The older teens especially, are able to understand this concept moreso than the much younger kids. Plus, once you do this repeatedly, they’ll remember how much fun they had last year and won’t think much about it. It really does become the norm!
What I like to do is to create a coupon or voucher of sorts that I can print and wrap to give them. Sometimes my kids keep these as keepsakes to remember what they were given and store in their albums or keepsakes box.
And keep in mind, sometimes experience gift comes do need supplies, so you can always purchase those and wrap them up along with a note or voucher about the experience gift. For example, if you’re signing your teen up for an art class, they may need paint, paint brushes, canvases, etc.
Affording Experience Gifts
Now if you’re thinking that purchasing these experience gifts is going to cost a lot, let me tell you this…
First, it can cost a lot. That is depending on the experience or experiences you choose to go with. But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some of the ways I save on these experiences and often times I end up spending less than if I purchased all the material gifts that my kids would ask for.
Buy what you would anway.
By this I mean, let’s say you were planning a road trip, staycation or vacation for the upcoming year, see what experiences you could sign your teens up for near where you are going.
Another way to do this is to find the experience and then build your getaway around the experience(s).
As I personally love to go new places, I like to look for experiences farther from home. First, you don’t have to do this at all. There is so much you can do close to where you live.
Second, if you’d like to be able to travel a bit more but spending so much just isn’t in the budget, consider family house sitting. This let’s you stay for free in someone else’s home in exchange for watching their pets and possibly watering a few plants.
This has saved us thousands of dollars per year and let us experience so much more as a family.
During the holiday season, I like to consider what experiences I’d like my family to have over the next year. This helps me plan what to give them for the holidays and their birthdays, plus budget for those experiences throughout the year so they don’t all have to happen at the same time.
Just like adults,kids and teens love to have something to look forward to! So just because you give them something now, doesn’t mean you have to deliver all at once.
More Ways to Save
I often look for experiences (and savings) here on Groupon. That’s helped me find new, fun things to do and save money while doing it.
Our public library also has free passes for museums. Some counties have them and some don’t and they have different names so you’ll have to check with your local library.
In the Phoenix area for instance, they’re called Culture Passes and in Los Angeles, they have the Discover & Go program. Same thing, different name.
Different cities also have city passes or something similar that allow you to access a number of different activities for a single price. Arizona has the Pogo Pass for example.
Now it’s your turn! If you’re new to gifting experience, you don’t have to go all in. Try exchanging one physical gift for an experience gift this year and see how both you and the child feel about it.
If giving an experience feels a little uncomfortable without something to hand them, don’t forget you can print a simple “coupon” or “voucher” to give them. You can also buy them a small physical gift to go along with their experience.
I can’t wait for you to try it!