Experiences Instead of Things

    Are you done with your Christmas shopping or have you not even started?  I am somewhere in the middle.  I’ve been struggling this year with “what” to get people.  I typically strive to get something a person “needs” versus something they may “want”. Yet, whenever I buy something that I think my wife needs, it seems to always fall flat.  And, after being married to her for 20+ years, I still have no idea what she wants. 

    I do know that Heather prefers experiences over things.  Last year, for example, she arranged shoe boxes and wrapped them up for each member of the family.  Seriously, when I opened it, I thought I was getting shoes.  Inside, however, was a very nice-looking display of 13 different gift cards to local places--one for us to enjoy together each month and an extra for our Anniversary.  Yes, this was a much better gift then shoes! 

    As I thought about the “experiences versus things” question in my head, I came across some interesting research.  A growing body of research tells us that one of the best gifts you can give your family this holiday season is an experience. According to scientists, doing activities with your loves ones increases brain activity and creates more lasting happiness than material objects.

    Plus, after the holidays, you’ll have fewer things to make room for as you’re boxing up decorations and preparing for the year ahead.

    Here are three gift ideas that could boost your family’s Return on Life and potentially create new traditions that will spread joy for years to come.

    1. Try something new.

    If your family’s routine feels stale after two years of pandemic life, shake things up a bit. Gift yourselves a membership to a museum, theatre company, or zoo.  Now that you’re not locked up at home anymore, trap yourselves in an escape room.  Create a monthly dining-out plan and buy gift cards to all the new restaurants you want to visit.  Try a new family sport, like skiing or indoor rock climbing.  Are your kids starting to stretch their culinary skills?  Buy virtual cooking classes or a meal kit subscription and make mealtime a real family activity.

    2. Schedule a big vacation.

    Some high-profile theme parks and attractions started opening their gates just as the pandemic closed them.  2022 could be a great year to make up for lost time.  Try to pick a place that has a little something for everyone.  Combine roller coasters with fine dining, or a first-class spa with sports facilities, and everyone will be more willing to stick together even if the next activity isn’t a personal favorite.  You might even be able to add visits to nearby family to the itinerary, another experience that’s sure to spark some extra joy.

    3. Create a family giving plan.

    Of all the experiences that can create happiness, none are as impactful as reaching out and making someone else’s life a little bit easier.  In addition to the immediate emotional benefits to both givers and recipients, charity has a way of rippling out into your community and creating more goodwill.

    The holidays provide a variety of festive giving options, such as toy trees for children, food and clothing drives, and providing holiday meals to families in need.  You could also make volunteering a new holiday tradition by taking a shift at a local soup kitchen or assisting at a favorite nonprofit’s charitable event.  Or you could donate to an organization that’s doing good work for a cause that’s important to your family.  That might inspire your family to think about establishing its own charitable organization and making philanthropy a permanent part of your family mission.

    Part of the fun of a great holiday gift is being surprised, buy a family experience might be a present that you should talk through with everyone before you put a bow on it.  Once your family has decided on a holiday experience, please share it with me.  I would love to hear what you have in store!

    Please remember that we are “here” and available for you as well.  If you have any questions or concerns, financial or otherwise, please do not hesitate to call or email.  If you have friends, family, or neighbors you feel would benefit from a conversation with me, I’m more than happy to have a call or jump on a Zoom meeting with them. 

    As always, I hope that you are doing well, and staying safe & healthy!