5 Reasons Experience Gifts are Better than “Stuff”

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Do you ever get tired of trying to figure out what in the world to give your children when it’s time to give a gift? No matter what time of year it is, a random holiday or their birthday is always coming down the pipeline. Family and friends ask the same ol’ questions.

What does Suzy want for her birthday? What does she want for Christmas? Halloween? Valentine’s Day?

I always tell people I have no idea, and it’s the absolute truth. Most of the time, I can’t come up with a single thing my kids actually need. Do they want stuff? Sure. But, I’m not the type of parent to buy my kids every gadget and Baby Alive accessory under the sun, either. We don’t have a huge house, after all.

This is part of the reason we strive to give our children “experience gifts” instead of toys or “stuff.” With experience gifts, we all get to do something enjoyable without adding another thingamabob to take care of.

My daughter’s sixth birthday this year is an excellent example. Since we were going to be in Florence, Italy on her birthday, I planned a pizza and gelato cooking class for our entire family through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This was her gift, and she absolutely loved it. Not only did she learn how to make a couple of her favorite foods, but we all made priceless memories in the process.

If we had bought her a toy or a game, she would have played with it for a while then discarded it when something better came along. But, a cooking class? She’ll remember the joy of rolling her own dough and creating her own delicious flatbread pizza forever.

Is she sad she didn’t get another doll or something else we don’t really need?

Not at all because our kids are pretty much used to getting experience gifts these days.

5 Reasons Experience Gifts are Better than “Stuff”

The older we get, the less “stuff” we tend to want around. Since we have plenty of belongings already, we’ve mostly given experience gifts for the last few years. And yes, this applies to both the kids and the adults in this house.

I rarely buy my husband anything for the holidays or his birthday, mostly because he prefers experience gifts over anything else. And, little old me? I tell my husband I will be pissed if he buys me anything I have to wash or take care of. Since he doesn’t want to make me angry, he obliges.

Here are five reasons we think experiences trump stuff any day of the week.

#1: You don’t have to dust experiences.

Can't find the perfect gift for your child or spouse? Here are 5 reasons I believe experience gifts are better than any "stuff" you can buy.When anyone asks me what *I* want for my birthday or the holidays, I beg them not to get me anything. Over time, I’ve learned that I just get resentful about stuff. When I see something I didn’t want and never use clogging up our living space, it makes me mad.

You might think that makes me sound ungrateful, and that’s fine. But, to me, getting unwanted stuff is worse than getting nothing. Why? Because it represents work.

That new tchotchke sitting on your mantle? You now have to dust it and clean it. That new sweater? You have to keep it clean and find a place to store it. That new wall hanging? You might spend your day trying to figure out where on Earth to hang it.

Experience gifts come with none of these struggles. They don’t collect dust, and they don’t take up space in your home.

#2: Most children’s toys really are junk.

I can’t tell you how many of my children’s toys have been utter, absolute junk. We’ve had toys that have lasted less than an hour, or worse, fallen apart before our kids could even use them.

I would much rather take my kids to see a new part of the world than to give them a cheap toy that may only last a few weeks or months. Call me crazy, but experiences seem like a much better use of our financial resources.

For example, we took our daughter to Holiday World (a local theme park) for her birthday last year. She had an absolute blast, and we got to spend time together as a family. The entire trip only cost us a few hundred bucks, but she still talks about how much fun she had. If I had bought her a few toys instead, they would be long forgotten by now.

#3: Experience gifts are for everyone in the family.

One thing I really love about experience gifts is the fact that everyone in the family typically gets to enjoy them together. It might be a fun trip we all get to go or a daytime activity I book for everyone. Either way, we all get to make memories as a family, which is much different than giving someone a toy they play with on their own.

#4: Travel is a gift (and a learning experience) in itself.

We didn’t travel a lot when I was younger, and I have always felt like that stunted my growth and made me fearful of other people and cultures. Once I started traveling as an adult, I learned that all people really are the same around the globe, and you can learn something from anyone if you try.

I’m so glad my kids are able to experience things while they’re young. They’ve learned how different cultures work and how certain countries do things their own way. They’ve made friends with children who speak other languages and played with them for hours, despite the language barrier.

I truly believe travel is a gift in this sense because it makes you a better, more well-rounded person.

#5: Stuff doesn’t make people happy.

If I’ve learned anything during my lifetime, it’s this: Stuff cannot fill an empty heart. If you’re unhappy as a child, a toy cannot fix it. If you’re unhappy as an adult, a new car or a new outfit won’t solve your problems in the long run.

While I already know that stuff cannot make anyone a happier, more productive person, I am raising little people who must also learn this lesson. While we occasionally buy them stuff they need, I go out of my way not to overdo it. I want my kids to learn to be happy without a bunch of stuff – to know who they are without relying on material possessions to define their worth.

Experience gifts make all of us better, whereas stuff only bogs us down.

That’s why I’ll take a beautiful day spent with my family, an amazing trip, or a memory that lasts a lifetime over a box of “stuff” any day of the week.

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  1. I think giving kiddos a crapton of toys is so wasteful. I’m trying to give my nieces and nephews experiences, like going to Chuck E. Cheese, over gifts. The toys will come and go, but the kids will remember a really great time, and that’s what childhood is all about.

  2. I totally agree on the kid’s toys! I try to be fairly minimal with them, but even then I feel like it’s just too much sometimes. I love experience gifts!

  3. A twist on this idea. When I was a teenager, my little brother had a paper route. It was in another town and he had to be driven. My parents did this. For Christmas one year, I decided to give them the gift of driving him on Sunday mornings. I think it might have been for about two months. 🙂

  4. Experience is always better than stuff but sometimes is better to find a compromise, for example a course together with a little toy…but I am goint to gift experiences for several birthdays this year…

  5. Love this post! Thanks so much, Holly. I’m going to remember this the next time a family birthday comes up!

  6. I completely agree with everything you said. I HATE stuff. My house is full of junk toys that my in-laws buy for the kids. While they are trying to be nice, we just don’t have room for it all. Ugh.
    P.S. Love the photos! I’m thinking about adding Switzerland detour when we visit my family in Europe next time.

  7. I’m heading to Italy soon with my boys 6 and 8 – care to share where you did the pizza and gelato making class? We have been looking for the same!

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