We all have those people that we have no idea what to buy for Christmas so we just get something with not much thought so we can add a tick off the list; admit you have done it … I have done it (I don’t do it anymore) … as long as that gift is under the tree you have done your job right – no wrong! If you are faced with a dilemma like this at Christmas why not think about looking to buy experiences?

It seems that buying someone an experience vs stuff (generally stuff they really don’t need or want vs an experience such as tickets to a show, a night at their favourite restaurant, or a massage pamper may actually make people happier and more satisfied that just wrapping up that no thought jocks and socks gift.

I have always been a believer in experience giving vs stuff giving but why are so many others unconverted when experience gifts are the bomb? We are constantly bombarded with marketing & advertising images which usually involves “wrapping” a physical present as a gift. Hopefully I can convert some people as I for one am sick of crappy landfill presents – it’s not the thought that counts because let’s face it there hasn’t been much thought … it’s just the tick off the list for a present under the tree!

Let’s think about experience gifts and why they are great:

  1. Everyone needs something to look forward too

One of the best bits about experience gifts, is looking forward to them’ it’s all about the countdown. I liken it to how you get so excited before going on a holiday, the thinking and thought and preparation of it is all part of the experience. Apparently science agrees a 2014 study published in Psychological Science found that one of the biggest advantages of experiential gifts is that they start bringing happiness before they actually “happen,” it’s all in the form of waiting and thinking about it, as well as the experience of it and the memories it creates.

  1. Scientists found we get more value from experiences

Another 2014 study looked at how people thought they’d feel after receiving and experience gift vs a material gift; then how they actually felt! Firstly they discovered; we think the material gift will give us more pleasure and be better value for money; and secondly, it never really does, the experience always ends up making us happier in the end. This is something the scientists called “economic forecasting.”

The scientists found that it’s really a question of what you value. If the scientists told you to value “value for money,” you’ll most probably choose material things as gift. If the scientists told you to prioritize happiness, you’re likely to go for experiences, and people who have experiences also feel they got better value for money afterwards – let’s face it the gift we choose we want to bring happiness – it’s a win win!

  1. We are social beings we connect with other people not stuff

Experience gifts normally involve other people, and according to research that is another reason they are better than stuff! Giving experiences is investing in memories, generally experiences give us great memories: most likely material gifts are enjoyed alone on your own, for one person only; whereas experiences are more likely to be enjoyed with other people, and that seems to add to the overall experience of the experience!

We are social beings and we give value to the fact that experience gifts bond us with other people. This occurs in 2 ways from the person who gives the gift to the people that enjoy the gift with them, this is found to substantially add to the happiness, the scientists call this “Social connectedness” and experiences are a way to feel this. What a better way if you’re feeling a bit distant from a friend, get them an experience and do it together.

  1. Mum …. she got more than me … it’s not fair!

According to a study from 2010 a huge  bonus of experience gifts is that they are less likely to be compared to actual physical gifts, and this also adds to overall happiness. In our life of social proof people tend to “compare” and when we are talking about physical things people are  much inclined to look around and see how they “compare” with others, this also detracts from how much we enjoy a gift. Experiences don’t get compared the same way; we all enjoy them in our own way, so experiences are very hard to be compared which is a serious bonus!

  1. Invest in memories and save landfill

One of the main reasons people buy physical gifts vs experiences is that they feel the physical gift — the porcelain statue, the dicky onion glasses, or the Reject Shop photo frame — will last longer than experiences (which only last a short time, in the doing of the experience), and therefore these kind of gifts will give more value … but this is actually not right!

Even if these physical gifts last years (before they end up in landfill or on the Vinnies shelves) they give some pleasure “in the moment”  but become forgotten very quickly. On the other hand our memories of experiences, remain special even if the experience itself was fleeting.

The experiences do actually need to be “thought about” the old saying it’s the thought that counts is still relevant when choosing experience gifts … no point getting your husband tickets to the opera when he has no interest in Pavarotti … it’s still the thought that counts … so give it some!