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Gifts or Experiences - Which Do You Prefer at Christmas?

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by Sarah Says (subscribe)
I am a marketing and communications consultant and freelance writer. Living on the Gold Coast in Australia. Check out my website or follow on Twitter @WENGoldCoast
Published November 28th 2014
With Christmas almost upon us, and the gift buying well and truly underway, it got me thinking about what is more important, gifts or experiences? We have all bought or received a gift that potentially was bought in haste, that just isn't you, or to of from a secret Santa you have never heard of, or worse, received something that was re-gifted (check for inscriptions first people).

We have all seen children toss aside an expensive gift to play with the wrapping paper or box, or a child who has so many toys they are desensitised to the excitement of receiving, or adults who have no clue what to buy, then leave to the last minute with a mad dash to the last open store.

I have been bought things that I just don't want or need, and although I pride myself on being a good gift giver, I too have bought for the sake of it, and because it's what you do at Christmas. But is there a better use for our hard earned money? As I have gotten older, and I am no longer a greedy eyed kid, I crave more experiences with the ones I love, it just means more.

Here are a few ideas for experiences over gifts:

Volunteering & Charity - offering your time is a great way to give back and bring some cheer and support to those that need it the most, although it has to be said, those in need are usually those with the most cheer - a lesson to be learnt there. Or you could group together and give to charity, either just give or do a run run or walk together, there is nothing like doing good for people to put a smile on your face, and feel good about yourself.

Old to New - I recently read a great idea online which was to take 25 or 12 of your child's books, wrap them up, and then get them to chose one to open and be read by you each night in the lead up to Christmas. I love this and when my daughter is old enough I will do it. A great way to spend time with you child, with the excitement of unwrapping the book, but with little cost. You cannot put a price on those memories.

Time - time with a loved one is precious indeed, especially with those that are elderly or lonely. I read a lovely story recently about a man who took is elderly mother on a dinner and cinema date - she passed away a few days later but had left a letter detailing how special that night was, and that she would cherish it. You won't find "time" half price in the January sales.

Activities - often myself and my mates, rather than gifts, will arrange a group lunch or dinner or trip bowling or to a theme park - spending time, having fun, enjoying each other's company with the money that would go on gifts being put towards a fun experience.

Secret Santa Experience - a variation on the standard, instead of picking a name of a person to buy something for, why not pick a name to spend some time with. Of course this works better if everyone knows each other, but if not then it's a good change to get to know them, quickly. You can agree to go for coffee, drink, lunch, a walk or to a gallery. Whatever, who knows where it may lead.

Lessons or Classes - still in the realm of a gift, but not so much a tangible one, or one that you can wrap. You could give things such as buying (or better yet if you can play, offer your time) 10 guitar lessons, driving lessons, or give a membership to a sports club or help finance the start of a hobby. A gift such as this, could lead to great things.

Get Personal - perhaps you could spend time getting favourite photos - such as baby or wedding ones - arranged into an album for a loved one, or fixing or revitalising their favourite toy or piece of clothing.

What do you prefer, gifts or experiences? What experience ideas do you have?
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