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Ditch the Stuff, Gift the Experiences


My three older children (6, 4, 2) are just finishing up their Christmas gift.  But instead of saying goodbye to a toy (i.e. throwing away a broken toy, replacing batteries for the umpteenth time, or putting something away in the garage because I’m sick of tripping on it), my children are saying hello to some new skills and are happily doing cartwheels and somersaults and hand stands in the living room.  You see, this year, we said “no” to the stuff and “yes” to the experiences.   They each received three months of gymnastics lessons (one month from us, and one month from each set of grandparents).  They did receive some other small things to open up, but it was much less than previous years.

Our culture is so dominated by the materialistic things.  We have decided that we don’t want that to be the focus of our holidays and birthdays.  I’m not anti-gifts by any means.  After all, one of my primary “love languages” is gifts.  I LOVE to give gifts, especially to my children.  It’s just that I don’t want stuff to dominate their thoughts on those special holidays.  We figured that experiences are a great way to not only gift something to our children, but it also allows for us to spend time with them, encourage them to try new things, get them involved in things that we otherwise wouldn’t have, and to also extend their Christmas/birthday gifts throughout the year.

So this last Christmas, we decided to start gifting “experiences”.  We knew the girls wanted to take gymnastics lessons, and so we asked them if it would make them happy to get that for Christmas, knowing full well that it would mean less “stuff.”  They agreed, and so we pitched it to the grandparents, who both participated.

Our kids have been able to experience their Christmas gift once a week for the last three months, and they have absolutely loved it.  They’ve gained new skills, made friends, and become far more coordinated.  They can do cartwheels and love showing them off.  And, at a time when the excitement over new toys would have been wearing off, they were out staying active, fit, and having fun.  Experience gifts have definitely found their place in our home!

If you’re interested in trying some experience gifts with your kids this year, I’ve come up with a few ideas.  From a frugal/money conscious point of view, I love utilizing discount sites like Groupon or Living Social to make these gifts even more reasonable.

*Gymnastics, Karate, Dance, Music.  I’ve seen many a Groupon for these types of activities.  Typically they are for one month, so it’s a reasonable cost for four weeks of trying something new!

*Discovery Museum pass.  This one is a winner…learning fun for the whole family all year round.  Plus, there are so many moms in the Reno area with passes there that you’re bound to make a new friend or two yourself.  AND, the Discovery Museum even ran a Living Social deal this year…so keep your eyes peeled (without the deal, it’s still only $85 a year for the whole family).

*Sacramento Zoo.  Again, I’ve seen deals for the Sac Zoo on both deal sites before, and this makes a fun family trip.  Plan a special family day trip to the zoo instead of having a birthday party!

*Farm School.  Urban Roots has farm school on Tuesdays specifically for homeschoolers.  It’s $50 for five weeks (two hours/week) and your child will have so much fun learning science, feeding the chickens, working in the garden and more (my six year old has been going and LOVES it).  If you homeschool, this could be an awesome gift option!

*Swim pass.  All children, but I think especially older kiddos, would love to have a swim pass in the summer to go anytime.  This would be a great gift for a child with a spring or summer birthday.

*Movie tickets.  My children don’t go to the movie theater very often because it’s so stinking expensive!  So, a movie date would a fun gift idea for them.  Costco usually sells tickets in two packs for cheaper than at the theater.

Another option is to make a booklet of coupons for the child to redeem.  Coupons might say things like “good for a trip to the park” or “good for a trip to look at the fish at Scheel’s” or “good for one ice cream cone date with mom” or “one trip to the movie theater” or “a one-on-one walk around the block with daddy.”  There are so many great options, and the great part is that they don’t HAVE to cost money!

Have you ever given an “experience” gift?  I’d LOVE to hear your ideas!


About Jessica Locke

Jessica Locke
Jessica is a wife and homeschooling mom to four kiddos, two pups, and five chickens. She enjoys mixed martial arts, Spartan races, and teaching/coaching fitness, self defense, and martial arts. She currently writes at motheringwithcreativity.com for all things mom-ing and homeschooling, and at Debt Free, Reno, NV on FB and IG for all things money-matters.

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