Why You Should Gift Experiences, Not Objects

This might just be the first holiday season that I actually know what I want as a present. Certainly, I’m not the only one that has struggled with the question, “what do you want for _______?”. Be it Christmas, your birthday, an anniversary, New Year’s, Hanukkah, or any other gift-giving occasion, I have been fortunate enough to not really need anything, and I haven’t had a strong desire for candy since I was about ten years old. So, round after round I came running into the same wallwhat do I want?

As I grew older, my sneaky parents had slowly been including some unconventional present for mepresents in the form of experiences. Glassblowing, money to save for a trip abroad (RIP to that for a little while), a high-end haircut, these are all examples of things that I have been gifted over the years. I have come to treasure this idea, and as it turns out, there is definite science behind why experiences make for better gifts than material objects.

First of all, experiences are remembered and treasured, but they do not clutter your home. Experiences elicit emotional responses and connections with the places and the people that we associate with them. These pleasant feelings will be brought up every time we remember the experience, and we will form a deeper connection with the people that go through them with us. Conversely, having a new object will make you happy in the short term, but within a month, that new dress you got will just be another colorful cloth in your closet. The happiness and endorphins it brought out will wither away. As Joseph Goodman, an associate professor at Washington University, put it, “We adapt to material gifts faster, whereas experiences tend to be more exciting in the beginning, and we tend to take longer to adapt over time.” five women laughing Photo by nappy from Pexels

Experiences are also less likely to be compared to something else and elicit jealousy or negative emotions. We understand that we each perceive the world differently and have different experiences. Hence, we do not compare our memories to others'. Going off of that, in my opinion, the special nature of your unique perception of what you experience makes that gift absolutely unique to you. Furthermore, the person you share that experience with also has a different kind of bond with you thereafter, even if the difference is small. If you would like to strengthen your relationship with a friend, that special someone, or a family member, an experience will tie you together like nothing else. You will forever have that shared pleasant memory. A girl scowling in a mirror Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Finally, experiences are so much easier to shop for than objects. Isn’t it much easier to certainly say, “yes, my friend enjoys doing ___,” rather than pinpoint objects that they like? Since you have a higher chance of getting your loved one an experience that they actually enjoy, they are more likely to be happy with their present, and it will demonstrate your knowledge of them as a person. A large component of present-giving is knowing an individual’s character and their likes and dislikes. You are always hoping that a person you consider a close friend will get you the present that best matches your desires. Hitting the nail on the head with your friend's presents indicates a closeness, and they will always remember you as the one friend who never fails to impress them on their birthday. holding hands at sunset Photo by Valentin Antonucci from Unsplash

Now, to slightly offset the focus of this article on buying an experience, please do not take this as saying that a homemade or cheap experience is worth less than an expensive one. The whole idea behind this suggestion is that experiences serve as invaluable memories, and that their true worth is the joy they give your friends and the bond strengthening qualities that they provide. You can gift your loved ones an experience ranging anywhere from a sky-diving trip, to a picnic in their favorite park, to taking them to the beach for the first time, and to buying them ice cream. Your friendships (and presents) should not be judged on merit, but rather on quality and the level of happiness and memorability they give you. So please, do not spend money if you cannot afford something. Sometimes a well-planned, great intentioned simple present is worth billions more than an overpriced fondue-making class. a picnic blanket set with cherries and pastries Photo by Анна Галашева from Pexels