Instead of Stuff: The Gift of Experiences

My dear family really, really wants to get gifts for us. I understand. Since we’re a close family, and we live in different parts of the country, giving gifts to each other is a gesture to demonstrate that we are with each other in spirit on Christmas morning.

So each year around Halloween (yes, Halloween), my family starts asking what we all want for Christmas. It was a hard one to answer. I knew we didn’t want more stuff—we’re in the middle of The Great De-Clutter and have just donated away so many of our clothes and toys to get us down to the essentials. And still we have more than we need.

And saying we really don’t want anything is the surest way to default into getting more stuff.

So I suggested gifts of experiences. We’re really trying to focus on having more quality time together as a family, and what better way to do it than the gift of experiences that last forever in our memories. Or at least until I get Alzheimer’s.


Stella’s birthday is in December, so our gift to her was a family trip to Circus Center, where we took flying trapeze lessons. It was a total blast, especially seeing 5-yo Cece climb the 30 foot ladder without a harness. Stella said it was her best birthday yet. (What? Not the astronaut party with the spaceship pinata for 20 kids and rocket cake that took me five hours to make?)

So this year, my mom got us tickets to see the Lion King (shhh, don’t tell the kids), which I wouldn’t have splurged on myself. What a really lovely gift.

Other experiences we’d love to share:

  • Tickets to The Nutcracker, or other  shows
  • Movie tickets—for family and date night—we’d use these up all year
  • Annual family museum passes
  • One-time classes, like the glassblowing that I’ve been wanting to try
  • Family play time at a local ice skating, trampoline, laser tag or rock climbing place
  • Weekend adventures, like a pass on a sledding lift. The kids really want to get to the snow this year.
  • Dinner or dessert at a nearby cafe or ice cream shop. We love Harmony (organic, local) Yogurt.
  • A foot massage, which I’m getting for my mother-in-law.

Of course, experiences don’t have to be things you buy. What I wanted most for my birthday, and got, was a hike in the woods and my family making me a zero-waste dinner.

Any other suggestions?

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