According to some statistics, the average household spends $1500.00 on the holidays. That's fine if you bring in 150K a year, but for the average Joe and Joanna that's a lot of moola greenbacks, dough, etc.
The problem goes beyond the exorbitant amount of money we spend. It's that those things that we buy disappear or lose their appeal almost instantly. Who hasn't spent hundreds of dollars and worked late into the night to purchase and assemble that gift your kid begged for only to be disappointed when the child ignores the toy and plays with the box instead?
Most kids will play with a toy for a day or two, maybe a week if your lucky. Then it starts to collect dust in the corner of the toy room (by toy room I mean your living room because let's face it the toys never stay where they are supposed to be). The child then begs for the next best thing they saw on TV or that their friend got for Christmas.
I'm all for a great meal with family and friends gathered to talk and laugh and just enjoy each others company. Sipping wine or cocktails and eating delicious food is, in my mind, money well spent. Making memories is they way to go.
Even buying decor for the Holidays is money well spent. I like to buy an ornament each year for my daughters that represents a milestone or a hobby of the past year like a piano or mellophone. Maybe the ornament will represent a favorite thing like candy or shoes. These ornaments are hung each year and create conversations and laughter as we recall each girl's past experiences.
Decor can be passed through the generations to create bonds through time. Stories of grandparents and other relatives who owned the ornaments create an unbreakable bond between family who never got to meet.
Great memories and experiences make the best gifts. So how can we come to terms with the embedded expectation to buy things even though we know many of those things will be unappreciated or forgotten quicker than it took to unwrap them?
I have complied a few ideas of experience gifts that you can even wrap and place under the tree. The best part about experience gifts is that they often provide more opportunities for you to spend quality time with the people you love the most.
These gifts are great for adults and kids alike.
5 Experiences to Gift
1. Zoo membership. Many zoo passes include a free or discounted pass to zoos across the country. So if you by a pass to the Pittsburgh zoo might use that same pass in Cleveland, Columbus, and Baltimore, all with in driving distance. Look to see if your zoo is part of the same network.
To make this gift more exciting wrap it up with a stuffed animal, an animal picture book, or coloring book about zoos to give something more tangible on Christmas. Spend time planning trips or researching zoo animals with your kids or grandkids.
2. Museum Memberships Not all museums are free like the Smithsonian or the Cleveland Museum of Art (an awesome place). Buying a museum pass is a great gift. If you buy a pass to the Carnegie art museum you get entrance to four museums! That is an awesome deal.
To make this gift more exciting wrap up some sketching tools like a paper and pencils to encourage kids to draw what they see when visiting. You can give them a framed print of an artwork they might find at one of the museums. Of course take time to plan an adventure with your child.
3. Tickets to a concert or sporting event Pair this with some memorabilia or a CD (do they still make those). This gift is sure to thrill any music or sports fan.
4. A trip to a nearby town for a day or longer to explore. Make it more affordable by planning a picnic and going when there are free events like festivals or outdoor concerts. Heck if you are feeling generous give tickets for full vacation week. Who wouldn't love that!
Important note here: If you do give a vacation for a gift beyond a weekend you must think carefully about whether or not you should tag along. Sometimes giving the gift without being part of the deal is the most generous thing you can do.
5. Lessons for a favorite hobby Purchasing lessons for art, theater, music, sports, sewing, knitting, or a million other things will give your loved one a chance to learn or refine a skill. So many people won't splurge on something like this so do it for them.
To make this gift more exciting pair it with things they will need to complete the class like art supplies or a bus pass. Offer to babysit on the nights they need to be free for class. Whatever it takes.
I hope these ideas inspire you to think beyond the traditional sweater or Barbie doll. Give the gift that keeps giving, EXPERIENCES!