Toys, trinkets and clothes are nice gifts, but for the most part, a majority of gifts we receive only last a season. But experiences will stick around forever. Part of the experience at Christmas is the gift giving – buying, making, wrapping, and waking up early to watch people open them. But consider giving other experiences this Christmas.
I suggest you invest half of your budget per person on an experience. If you typically spend $100 on a person, spend $50 on a tangible gift or two and then invest $50 in an experience. These experiences don’t have to be during the Christmas, but can be.
I remember reading a story one time about a 1960’s family who finally saved $1500 to put in a second bathroom in their home – which was desperately needed with nine children. During a family meeting it was decided they would, instead, take the camping trip out west they had talked about for years but never did. The family loved the experience and came home to begin saving again for the much needed bathroom. But the next year, they took another trip. They did so every year after that. I read the story as it was being told by one of the now grown up kids who concluded by saying “we never did build on the extra bathroom, but our family was stronger, more connected and lives were better because we had those camping trip experiences together.”
What experiences can you give to your kids this year? Save some money back to be intentional about spending it on experiences more than things. Here are ten ideas to get you started:
1. The Experience of Giving
Make giving an experience. Shock a waitress with a crazy tip that the whole family is in on and experiences together. Pay for someone’s tab at a restaurant. Give at the Salvation Army Red Kettles – save some money back so your young children can do that every time they walk by. Give at church on Christmas Eve. Shop together for a meal you are buying to give to the local food pantry for this season. Help serve together at a homeless shelter or other ministry this Christmas. Giving is an experience.
2. The Experience of Dining Out
Plan a night to go out to dinner as a family. Invite some other family if you would like to. Either pick a place you love or a place you’ve never been. Don’t squeeze it in, make it the event.
3. The Experience of Activity
Cooking classes, museums, or golfing, are just three of the millions of things you could do together. Buy a gift experience to go do something around your community that you typically wouldn’t do. Go to the nearest city and experience an attraction that you wouldn’t normally take time to visit. See a sporting event or watch a concert. Set up a family bowling night or play lazer tag.
4. The Experience of a Weekend Trip
One year my mom and dad took my daughters to a motel about eight miles from our house for a gift. They swam, played, goofed off and came home the next day. That was a great experience. One time over the course of three days, we drove to Des Moine, IA, visited my great aunt, had tons of fun, made homemade applesauce, did wood working, and went to Living History Farms. It was an experience filled 72 hours. Every year, we try to take a camping trip – at least for one night. That’s always filled with memories.
5. The Experience of a Big Trip
Plan a big trip. Not every big trip has to be expensive. Make a plan to go somewhere you’ve never been. Visit a state you’ve never been too. Travel to a country you’ve never visited. Go camping for a week. This past year, we took a family ministry trip down to the Gulf of Mexico. On the way, we took time to sing at three different churches. It was an incredible nine days.
6. The Experience of a Date Night
Give a gift certificate to each of your kids for a date night in January. If you don’t plan to intentionally spend time with your kids, you miss it. Give a gift certificate of a date night to your husband or wife. These can be simple handmade cards or letters given at Christmas. Then plan a time to go out.
7. The Experience of Home Projects
Give the gift of doing a home project together. This can range from small to large. Paint a bathroom. Make something. Build something. Work on something together. One childhood memory was a time my dad built some shelves for our house and we helped him a little. We still have the shelves and the memory of making them.
8. The Experience of Music and Art
I remember one year I was paid to give five guitar lessons to someone as a gift. I thought that was a great idea. Take some music lessons together. Attend a concert. Make a pottery project. Make homemade cards for family members.
9. The Experience of a Photo Shoot
Set up a photo shoot for your family. This is a great way to provide a fun experience for your family and for others who receive the pictures as a gift. Taking pictures always provides some sort of story for years to come.
10. The Experience of Hobbies
Help young children see the benefit of being interested in hobbies. Spur on collections, buy books or subscriptions to magazines or maybe buy a small starter kit for something. This past fall, we visited one of the world’s largest model train exhibits. I remember once buying a small spy kit on the way home from a trip to Washington DC. Since that time, my daughters have from time to time played spies. That little kit was a catalyst to several hours of experience.
What are you some of your Christmas experience gift stories?
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