Each year it’s reported that we spend billions of dollars on Christmas, most people using credit cards to fund those purchases. However, in a couple of days’ time those purchases more than often end up in the cupboard never to be used again. A tangible item may seem like a quick, last minute gift at Christmas time; but how long will happiness and satisfaction last?
I stopped doing presents a few years ago when I realised they just ended up on the shelf where they had sat since the first time I received them. Yes, I was excited to receive a new movie, but then once I had watched it I never touched it again.
So I stopped buying presents and started looking for experiences I really wanted to have. For me, that involved seeing as much of the world as possible. I was willing to give up buying things and spend that money on a trip which would make me more happy.
There have been studies undertaken recently where science confirms that possessions don’t bring us lasting happiness. That shiny, new, Porsche may look great and make our colleagues jealous, but once the newness wears off (maybe within a month) it will be just another car.
On the other hand, if it has been your lifelong dream to drive a Porsche, why not buy a couple of hours or a day’s worth of Porsche driving experience. Not only do you get to live out your fantasy, but the only cost will be the drive itself. The vehicle belongs to someone else to pay ongoing registration and maintenance costs.
An experience gift will last longer as well, it forms a bond between people and elicits a strong emotional response from the receiver. For example; the gift of a spa or yoga retreat will bring a feeling of calm to the receiver as they think about the relaxing time they are about to have.
An experience will not only be enjoyable, the memory of the experience will last longer.
Just think about how you feel when you spend time with a good friend or family member. It is the time spent talking and laughing that sets off a chain of happiness. You feel relaxed and stronger bonds are formed. You may not remember the meal you ate, but you will have memories of the time you both were relaxed and happy.
So this year, when you are feeling stressed about choosing the perfect present, stop and think for a moment. Would you rather spend $200 on a fashionable new outfit which will only be worn a couple of times, or would that money be best spent on an experience you and your family or friends will gain lasting, happy memories from.
For me, the experience of taking a theatre show with my sister and dad was a more valuable experience than buying something which would just clutter up my bookshelf even more. It also meant that I could spend time catching with her and sharing stories of what we had done and plan to do. The memory of this experience has outlasted the show but it was worth the price to spend precious moments together. After losing my mother a couple of years ago, you realise that all the material items in the world won’t make up for spending quality time with people whom make you happy.