A few years ago, I decided that for birthdays and anniversaries, my primary gift-giving focus would be on experiences. Sometimes I’d rather have a weekend getaway or spend my money on an excursion, adventure, or even a trip to a brewery, especially when it’s meant to celebrate a loved one on their special day.
I’ll save the “stuff” for Christmas, I said. That can be our time for “things,” I said. That can be a break from the super thoughtful effort that goes into planning and executing an experience, and a shift into material admiration instead.
Well, December is here, and here I am facing the reality of my promises.
Looking to give the gift of stuff? Things? Join the club. However, we don’t have to give in completely; these gifts can still be unexpectedly unconventional, with a little out-of-the-box thinking. Here are a few of my recommendations for when stuff and things need to be given.
Material Goods, With a Twist
I must say, if you’re going to give material goods (especially since experiences can be quite expensive and inaccessible for everyone), it’s important to make them count. And that is more than doable. It’s still possible to be thoughtful and shop with your person’s interests in mind.
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1. You Can’t Go Wrong with a Gift Card
I figured I should get this one out of the way: while it might seem a bit impersonal and little like a cop-out, a gift card is one of my very favorite presents to receive.
Depending on where it’s from, a gift card can be personal while still allowing a sense of freedom and choice. It’s also inclusive of different needs and personalities; if you are looking for someone who only likes practical presents, look no further than a gift card for their grocery store or gas station. Know a makeup fiend or beauty vlogger? I imagine they could use a Sephora surprise. Book lovers could always use a donation to their Kindle or Barnes and Noble fund. For those that love to shop til they drop, do a little investigating into their favorite retailer, and save them a chunk of money that they were already going to spend.
My personal favorite gift card options:
- Amazon (seriously, it has everything)*
- Target (good for both essentials and decor that I absolutely do not need, but will put in my cart anyway)
- TJ Maxx (the best for deals on clothing and home goods)
- Best Buy (if you know someone who is upgrading their home, this is a great resource for them tech-wise)
- Starbucks (this one is best for people that really drink coffee on the regular, and would appreciate a few gifted lattes)
- A local restaurant, hot springs, amusement park, brewery, massage therapist, coffee shop, or movie theater (okay, okay, I’m busted here. These are all experiences. However, they were gifted as a thing, so it still works.)
The deets: the price completely depends on budget, but I usually try to start at around $25, if possible. Buy online or in-person at the store.
2. The Gift of Art
While this is a little outside the usual parameters of Christmas gift giving, I think everyone could use a little extra art in their lives. As Chad and I have been upgrading our living space, a major factor has been filling it with decor. We have paintings and prints that are fun and bring new energy into the house, and it’s honestly amazing.
This is also an opportunity to really pick things out that go with the recipient’s style. It can be very thoughtful, especially when you nail it. For example, my engineer husband might just love a blue-print style piece for his office wall.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Any of these super cute pop-culture/quote-like prints from PaperLoveSong on Etsy
- Side note: supporting local and small artists is a wonderful idea! While it can be a little more expensive, your money is going toward someone’s business and literally supporting them! Etsy is a great place to find such artists and explore their work. Go here first!
- This Van Gogh print* (which happens to hang in my office), $25, Amazon
- A quirky donut-themed display like this one, $50, Uncommon Goods
- A framed nature scene, $13, Target
- This modern piece, $20, TJ Maxx
3. Knowledge is Power
While this might also fall under the experience category, there is a way to enrich the life of your gift recipient with a little education.
Last year, I discovered that Groupon has a section of their site devoted to online learning. The stars aligned perfectly; I gifted my mom a creative writing course, and my brother a class about screen play creation. My mom loves to write, and my brother had mentioned years ago about his interest in film.
Usually these classes are massively discounted, and provide an amazing resource for those looking to expand and grow. And it’s not just limited to writing: there are a TON of different categories, from job skills to photography to certification courses. Check these out for yourself, too!
The deets: these are available online at Groupon.com, and usually start at $5.
4. Kits Galore
Sometimes a great gift comes in the form of a hobby. A few years ago, my husband expressed some interest in brewing beer; this has resulted in a great number of awesome gifts for him, all related to the process. It started with a brewing kit* ($99, from Amazon), that provided the essentials.
There are so many starter kits for brewing beer out there—plenty to choose from. And kits don’t have to be limited to beer. There’s a vast world of start-up kits out there, with so many different activities: kombucha* brewing, robotics, painting, knitting, wine making, rocket-building, jewelry creation, origami—you name it.
The deets: you can find options on Amazon, Etsy, Target, Ebay Walmart, and more specific niche websites. A google search will yield the best results after you’ve narrowed down the hobby in question.
5. Upgrade their binging experience
This gift is less “unconventional” and more along the traditional capitalistic gift-giving vibes, though it has the potential to be a game changer.
If I’m being honest, one of the top presents I’ve ever received was our Amazon Fire Stick. I put it on our wedding registry last-minute, and one of my dear friends swooped in, made the purchase, and saved the day. We started our marriage off on the perfect foot, thanks to Taylor. The moment we returned home from our week-long Jamaican honeymoon, exhausted and ready to retreat into our introverted shells, my husband and I unwrapped the Fire Stick and melted into a puddle of digital joy.
If you have someone that is still using an HDMI cord to watch Netflix, the Fire Stick is a perfect gift. It’s easy to setup and use, and has a ton of apps available. It’s good for both tech-savvy and tech-novice receivers.
Note: it doesn’t come with subscriptions to these sites (you’ll still have to pay for Netflix or HBO Go), but it puts them all in one easy place. Plus, there’s a lot of potential for exploration, if they are into that sort of thing.
The deets: $50, buy it on Amazon here*
With any luck, you’ll beat the thing-and-stuff-giving system, and before you know it you’ll be back to birthday celebrations with long weekends, sipping a cocktail pool-side saying, “ahh, experiences.” Until then, spread a little love and holiday cheer, with an extra dose of thoughtfulness.