Read on to find out how to give experiences instead of gifts to have memories that last forever.
We have all been there, in the aftermath of Christmas morning or our child’s birthday party, with a pile of “new” things to add to our home. To multiply the never-ending mound of toys our children already own. Once you find a place for all the new birthday “things”, then its time for the holidays. You know the ads start running right after Halloween, advertising the new “it” toy of the holiday season and your child feels this toy will complete them. They need it. They have to have it. Then when summer rolls around, you find their “it” toy in the yard sale bin in your garage. WHAT A WASTE! It’s a vicious cycle that leads to clutter, and clutter leads to STRESS!
This year, I wanted to embrace more of a minimalist lifestyle. We are far from getting there, but we are taking steps everyday. So, I decided that instead of giving our children gifts for their birthdays, we would give them experiences. Not only would this decrease clutter, but it would save so much money. I made this announcement to my family on New Year’s Day. You know, because that’s the day we always feel inspired to change for the better. Well the kiddo’s were skeptical. In fact, the idea of not unwrapping anything sounded like a punishment. I explained there still could be things to unwrap, like movie tickets or a giftcard to the aquarium, but they would not be getting “things”, instead we would be making MEMORIES! Yeah, they still didn’t seem totally on board, but they were intrigued.
Our middle child came to us first with her idea, she asked to go see the Titanic Museum. I thought that was a great idea. Not only was it educational, but it was somewhere I would enjoy as well. I started researching the closest one to us. It turned out it was in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Pigeon Forge is a happening place, a big tourist attraction. As I started researching it, I found many fun activities our family would enjoy. I figured if we were already traveling to Pigeon Forge, why not take in all we could. So that was exactly what we did. From riding the Ober Aerial Tram in Gatlinburg, to visiting Ripley’s Aquarium, to eating at the dinner show of Dolly’s Stampede, we barely left a stone unturned in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area. Which was great! It was an experience! In fact, we all experienced things we had never did before. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp, we got family portraits made at Old Time Photos, we HAD A BLAST! We also spent way too much money. In fact, we spent more than what we usually spend for all three of their birthdays combined, and we were only one experience down. That’s when it hit me that this wasn’t exactly going as planned. In fact, when I had made this announcement to my family, I pictured us going horseback riding or hiking. Just one SMALL experience per a child. However, in the midst of my planning, I had forgotten part of the purpose was to save money.
How in the world, was I going to be able to tone down the next two experiences? My goodness, we couldn’t afford two more trips like that this year. So I explained that I had made the trip much more than what it was supposed to be. After all, she only asked to go to a museum. Turns out, my kids were good with that. They had a great time, and thankfully didn’t expect a whole vacation as their experience. So they got it, they understood the whole time, even though I had totally misconstrued it. So the next two experiences were much more local and more affordable. My oldest daughter wanted to go “glamping” in the mountains, and our little one wanted to ride the Polar Express Train. We all had fun. It didn’t have to be an all out vacation jam packed with activities. We did exactly our purpose, WE MADE LASTING MEMORIES.
I asked my children what they learned from our year of experiences and their answers were exactly what I had hoped they would be. They said they got something to cherish in their hearts forever, instead of something to display in their rooms and that they would choose it over a gift any day. So that settles it. Experiences are where it’s at. Children are not going to remember that Barbie you got them for their 7th birthday, but they will remember you taking them fishing. Furthermore, I learned just like they don’t need a multitude of “things’, they also don’t need tons of experiences, they just need memorable ones.
Have you ever swapped gifts for experiences?