For the One Who Has Everything: A Gift Guide of Experiences
Thursday, December 22, 2011Tweet
Recently I've seen a lot of bloggers posting gift guides -- suggestions for what holiday gifts to buy for various people. So you can get advice for everyone in your life from the Jane Austen fan to the ballet dancer. (And Macha's tongue-in-cheek Catholic Christmas gift guide is pretty hilarious.)
Ever since I wrote about the importance of experiences I've been toying with writing a post about giving experiences. I like this idea because I'm very particular about what I put on my Christmas list and since last year have requested that people give to specific charities rather than buy me something not on my list, simply because I don't like having too many "things" in our little apartment. And many of the people I know don't really need or want a lot of things either; my dad always struggles to put enough things on his list that everyone in the family can buy him something.
I put this to the side because (family spoiler alert!) I didn't actually buy any "experiences" as gifts this year and felt that I was being hypocritical... but then I kept coming up with ideas, and I thought, well, maybe this will be helpful to someone who's trying to find something last-minute for that person who doesn't really need anything.
So here's my best attempt at a gift guide for giving experiences, not things.
I am not the kind of person who typically spends money on things like manicures and massages, but I do enjoy them enough that I'd get them on someone else's dime. I think there are a lot of women who are in this same boat: They enjoy getting pampered, but don't feel justified spending their hard-earned money this way. If you go this route, I suggest a gift card to a spa or similar place where there are a variety of options (massage, facial, manicure/pedicure), as what's relaxing for one person is uncomfortable for another.
This could be any number of things, depending on what the person enjoys. A round of golf (or mini-golf). A day at an amusement park. A zoo or museum membership. A gift card to get movie tickets or concert tickets of their choice. Something that gets them out of the house and doing something they find fun.
You can go either way with this one, either actually giving someone food (cookies, jam, their favorite snack) or giving a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Either way, they have the enjoyable experience of eating delicious food and then don't have anything taking up space afterwards. (Unless you give them food they don't like, in which case it will go in their pantry out of obligation and then stay there until the end of time. At least in my experience.)
Not magazine subscriptions. Unless you know it's something they've really wanted but haven't subscribed to for some reason, a magazine subscription can easily just become another piece of mail to deal with. I'm talking about virtual subscriptions. This could be anything from Netflix (movies) to Pandora One (music) to Hulu Plus (TV shows). If you know someone's using a trial version or free, ad-supported version of some service, paying for a subscription to the premium service could be a great gift.
Microlending: Not Quite Money, Not Quite Charity
There are two potential defaults for someone you don't know what to get: Give them money, or make a donation to charity in their name. Neither one is ideal, since money is kind of boring (and, if given to me, will likely go into the bank and not actually get spent on me in any kind of fun way), and charity donations don't necessarily have meaning unless you know for a fact that someone is passionate about a particular charity. As an alternative, check out Kiva.org, where you can lend money to entrepreneurs in developing countries. You can buy gift cards to the site, which means the person who receives the gift card gets to go through and decide who they want to lend the money to, then eventually the money will be paid back and they can reinvest it or cash it out to PayPal. It's doing good, giving an experience, and giving money all in one! This was my birthday gift from Mike, and I had fun looking through all the different businesses that people had and deciding whom to give money to. Similar sites include Microplace and Global Giving.
Last December I was scouring the Internet for gift ideas for my grandmother. She was spending Christmas with us so I had to get her something, but she's at the age where she doesn't need anything, doesn't want anything, and is actively trying to give her things away. I finally hit on this suggestion: Send a postcard a week for all of the next year. I didn't talk with her very often and writing a letter seemed too time-consuming when I never felt I had much to say, but writing a few sentences on a postcard every week, I could do. I ended up ordering some custom ones with our picture from Vistaprint so she'd have something special to open, but just a cheap pack of postcards will do -- it's your time that you're giving. This entire year she never failed to mention to my dad every time she talked to him how much she loved getting my weekly notes, and every holiday when she sent a card she would write a little P.S. about how much she was enjoying the postcards.
I purposely avoided labeling this last section "Your Time," even though that's basically what you're giving, because I often see suggestions to give people homemade coupons for your time, whether you can cook for them or mow the lawn or whatever. I've given and gotten these types of coupons before and, at least in my experience, they don't work because no one actually cashes them in. No one feels comfortable going back to someone a month or two later and saying, "Here, I want you to cook me a meal tonight." Maybe you've had a different experience, which I'd love to hear, but I've never seen this kind of gift work except in a kind of "it's the thought that counts" way (i.e., you are giving the offer of cooking, but not the actual cooking).
I'd love to hear your suggestions for what other ways you can give the gift of experiences rather than physical things. What's the best experiential gift you've received or given?