I am all about making memories and spending quality time with family. If firmly believe that the majority of people spend most of their lives WANTING something. Many people even sit back and WAIT because they hope something will happen. All of us will only pass this way one time. I want to make the most of every second of my life rather than spending it WAITING for something. Read the article I wrote titled “It’s the Journey” or “Be Quiet”.
My Mother used to drive school bus when we were young. She said that it got very challenging, particularly when the kids on the bus grew more and more difficult to manage and the schools or bus companies were helpless to step in due to government mandates. To help her get through, she began making a point of noticing things that were all around her every day. Suddenly she started noticing the leaves as they turned colors each autumn or a bluebird that was usually in one area (must be the nest was nearby) and a turtle that was crossing the road, and shapes the clouds made (when those huge puffy Cumulous clouds were out and about), how quickly the clouds moved, rainbows that were formed after it rained, and the list goes on and on.
Even when she had a tangible gift to give me, she made it exciting. The year I graduated from high school, the only thing I wanted was a set of luggage (I have always loved traveling!). To make it more fun for me since I was only going to receive that ONE GIFT that year, she got up before I woke up and took several balls of yarn (tied them together when she used all of one ball) and strung the yarn all over the place: upstairs to the 2nd story of our home, downstairs to the basement of our home, outside to the barn that was out back and up to the 2nd story of the barn, into the tack room of the barn, around the cage where my pet rabbit was kept, back into the house and around the chairs at the kitchen table, and ended by tacking the end of the yarn to the door frame above my bedroom door with a note taped to the very end of it telling me that my gift was at the other end of the yarn. Here I am today, 47 years later, and I cannot even tell you what color the luggage was! I remember getting the luggage; however, I more remember all the places that I had to go as I re-wound the yarn into a ginormous ball of yarn as I followed it all around the place. I do not remember how long it took for me to finally get to the very end of the yarn, nor do I even remember where the end was where my luggage was stashed. I do remember laughing and giggling and traveling back and forth and upstairs and downstairs and having an absolute ball (no pun intended) as I wound the ball of yarn to get to my gift that was at the other end.
My point in telling you that is to let you know how powerful a gift of an experience can be. I do remember that all I wanted was the luggage. I do remember that I got the luggage. However, I only remember what I had to do in order to find the luggage. The experience is what I remember the most. I still giggle when I think of some of the stupid places where she wound that yarn.
I used the same technique for one of my son’s birthdays. This one was not as messy as the time I used sparklers in the top of his birthday cake (when the paper tablecloth caught fire!) or when I inserted a firecracker into his birthday cake (that exploded all over the room and people)! He was 8 years old and had just learned that there was no Easter bunny. So, to put some fun back into the holiday festivities, I hid hard boiled, colored, eggs all around our home – both inside and outside in the yard and let him hunt for them. He found most of them. Good thing I made a list of where I hid them because we finally discovered that a raccoon took several of those that were outside!!! Guess what he remembers today?!
Suggestions for Giving a Gift of an Experience
You do not have to be creative or wild (like I tend to be) in order to give a gift of an experience. Some suggestions of other, tamer experiences, are below. Note that these cost money. These suggestions are just my way of providing a method to get more bang for your bucks:
- Pay for an annual membership or subscription
- To a museum, zoo, or botanical garden that is along the lines of the person you will be receiving the experience. My kids love Longwood Gardens, a botanical garden that is about 40 minutes away; however, they love going there because not only is it beautiful and the entire garden themes change quarterly, but they can also safely walk around because the entire gardens are completely fenced.
- A favorite magazine subscription for a year
- Warehouse club membership
- Fruit or salsa of the month club for one year
- For a family that has young children and little time or money to spend quality time together, think about creating a basket of goodies such as:
- A Movie Night Basket that includes popcorn or pretzels, candy for each member of the family, a gift certificate for a movie rental, or if you know of a movie that they have been wanting, you could purchase the movie and put it in the basket
- Membership to a zoo or botanical garden. More than 200 botanical gardens nationwide participate in the American Horticultural Society Program, which provides members of one garden free or discounted admission to others. Many zoos also participate in a program that offers discounted or free admission to other zoos in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to get you started. You can locate zoos and aquariums in your locality as well as their calendars of events.
- For the chef in your family, how about a chef experience? Hire a personal chef to go to his/her home to create a meal. The personal chef will contact the recipient to decide what to create for dinner. You can hire the personal chef for one night or purchase a gift certificate in a variety of amounts.
- A family membership or annual pass to a popular local attraction. An annual pass to the Miami Seaquarium, for example, costs less than two visits, and pass holders also get discounts on other local attractions. Six Flags theme parks are offering free parking passes this holiday season with the purchase of four annual passes to some parks. Check out: One Thing You Must Do in Each State or America’s Parks.
- Magazine subscription. An annual magazine subscription is a good gift for a child or adult, and often costs less than $20. If you want the option of sending it again next year, make sure the renewal form comes to you and not the recipient. You’ll also want to opt out of any promotional mailings and ensure you don’t grant permission to add the recipient to mailing lists.
- Warehouse club membership. An annual membership to Costco ($55), Sam’s Club ($45) or BJ’s ($50) would be a welcome gift for a friend or relative who likes to shop at those stores.
- Something of the Month Club. Check out some of the Fruit-of-the-Month clubs from Top Consumer Reviews. For any type of food clubs, consider iGourmet.com. Coffee Clubs, Craft of the Month Club, Plant of the Month Club, etc. Use your favorite search engine and search for “____ of the Month Club”. Be sure to check out reviews by real people (as opposed to paid staff) to make sure the club you are thinking about is honest.
- A Spa Treatment. It does not have to be an ongoing gift. I have given my daughter-in-law a gift certificate to a local spa. I went to the spa and purchased the gift certificate.
- Even if you do not have a lot of money, you can find many spa schools where therapists learn the art and get spa treatments at significant discounts. They cannot charge the full fee because the technicians-in-learning are not yet accredited.
- Or gift certificates for hair cuts
- Free Beauty Makeover. Buy the recipient a pretty frame for them that they can use to put a photo of the way they look after the beauty makeover. There are a variety of ways to find free beauty makeovers.
- Restaurant Gift Cards: If you get the gift card from the company that owns a variety of restaurants such as Landry’s, Darden, Brinker, Bloomin’ Brands, etc. your recipient can use the gift card at any of the restaurants owned by the parent of your recipient’s favorite restaurants. You can also get gift cards at reduced prices from organizations such as Groupon, Living Social, or Yipit.
Please share the different kinds of experiences you give as gifts. Better yet, please share the stories behind those gifts of experience so everyone can get even more ideas.