The One Way to Value Experiences Over Stuff This Holiday Season

Everyone talks about it, but hardly anyone is able to stick to it. We all want to make this holiday season more about love than about gifts. Why is actually doing it so much harder than we thought?

Gift-giving has been part of our society from the time we were born. Most of us grew up with the anticipation of a mountain of gifts arriving near the end of the year. Whether we behaved well or flunked a few grades, the gifts were a comfortable and exciting respite from the rest of the year.

I’m 26 years old, and I don’t live at home anymore — but, early Christmas morning, my mother still wakes up in the middle of the night to put out gifts in hopes of a morning surprise. I wake up in my house down the street and rush over as soon as I open my eyes, joining my siblings and parents in all out gift-unwrapping extravaganza.

When I look back at all the holiday moments I’ve spent this way, I started thinking…

Why do we express love through material goods?

About a year ago, I discovered the phenomenon of showing love through food. I had fallen victim to this my entire life, but I had never become aware of the situation. Why do we bake cakes for friends or bring home some chocolate for mom? I’ve been guilty of this so many times, but I never realized it was a habit that isn’t healthy for anyone!

Why build a habit of equating food with love? 

After I became aware of what was happening, I was able to more closely identify when it was happening and stop it in its tracks. I don’t want to equate giving love with giving a dangerous sugar-high, so I started removing food-related gift-giving and started giving more books, instead.

This got me thinking, though… If it’s not food, why books or other material goods?

The running shoes my husband gifts me don’t make me love him any stronger. Kind words and support in the important moments are much more meaningful to me.

The new iPhone case my dad picked out for me is beautiful and thoughtful, but it’s his advice and fortitude that I cherish most.

I know I’d rather have a hug than shoes, so why have I always shrieked with glee when opening gifts?

Give that which will last forever.

They say that the last few moments before we leave this life, a person’s existence flashes before their eyes. We’ve heard this in stories, movies, and more. What’s amazing is that we never stop to think that these flashes of memories never include scenes of material goods and stuff.

In general, the human being values experiences more than material goods — we’ve just forgotten this somehow.

Through the mainstream media, we’ve been taught to follow a consumerist culture. We’re not onl sold iPhones and luxury handbags. We’re sold the happiness that comes along with owning them.

In reality, human relationships thrive on experiences more than goods. 

I cherish the feeling of hitting a home run and running around the bases — not the baseball bat I held in my hand.

I cherish the feeling of finishing my first book — not the laptop I used to write it.

I cherish the feeling of gaining a lifetime partner — not the ring my husband put on my finger.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “The value of any experience is measured, of course, not by the amount of money, but the amount of development we get out of it.”

Gift experiences this holiday season.

Give memories. Gift the things that enrich the soul. Give that which will incite happiness and love.

If we choose to change things up this holiday season, who could we make happier?

Bio: When Marcella Chamorro decided to quit her job to live every day as if it’s a vacation, she turned her attention to creating a lifestyle that is both meaningful and exciting. Now (as an author, entrepreneur & speaker based in Nicaragua), Marcella guides those who want to quit their jobs, live their dreams, and live a vacation that never ends at The Perpetual Vacation.

16 Responses to The One Way to Value Experiences Over Stuff This Holiday Season

  1. We live in a material world, and so we gift material things. I don’t think that’s inherently wrong, but we need to keep it in the proper perspective.

    What’s most important are the experiences that are formed around the gift giving occasion.  Watching the children scream with delight as they run around with new toy in hand. Feeling the joyful embrace of your partner for the well though out gift.

    These are the things that matter. They are the true gifts we give.


  2. Dan Erickson says:

    I think travel can make a wonderful gift.  Although there is some material value to travel, it’s something that you experience with your loved ones and creates long-lasting memories.

  3. Gifts and material things may be what is being given to others in a physical form on the holidays. However, I believe that those gifts are only a vehicle that will lead to some sort of experience or feeling for both the giver and receiver.

    For some, it may be the surprise that the are really wanting. Others, the thankful words that may come after giving a gift.  And there may be those who receive something so thoughtful that it touches their lives.

    All in all, I believe the gift is only a vehicle and not the end result. Then again, giving gifts is one of the five languages of love.

  4. Paul says:

    I truly believe that life is to short to think about how material things are what gives us substance in our lives. Being a person who has tasted poverty and been on the brink of being homeless I can say this. Now that I have made some money my quality have life has gotten so much better, because now I have options in life including being able to spread joy and happiness to the ones I love by being able to give them everything I never had and there truly is nothing that gives me a better feeling then that.

    To Living A Complete And Fullfilled Life,

  5. Karen says:

    I agree. material things last for a moment but the memories made will last a lifetime, why not invest more in this?

  6. Vishnu says:

    Marcella – that’s touching your parents still wrap gifts for you and pretend they are from Santa – or is it accepted it’s from them? haha

    We can give compassion, our time to others free of charge. I think a practical way to implement this for the gift-giving season is to have everyone agree about the gift limit so one party doesn’t give an expensive gift and the other feels obligated to gift as well.

    Great points here!

  7. Bobby Galvan says:

    I agree gift exchange has overshadowed the exchange of real emotion. However, I think that there is nothing wrong with material gifts if they enable experiences, growth, or solve a problem in someone’s life.

    A baseball bat could lead to some great bonding between friends and family.  I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much about the world so early on if my parents didn’t get me a computer.  I consider myself a minimalist, but I don’t let it get in the way of recognizing the value in the things that people create.

    That said, the fact that we promotes a day where gift-giving is an obligation is pretty sad(but profitable)…

  8. Thanks, Vishnu! I agree about the gift limit. If I could go a step further, I’d wish for everyone to agree on making DIY gifts, to promote thoughtfulness instead of high spending.

  9. Hi Bobby! I completely agree with you that some material goods are essential to our lives, for example my Macbook Air and my running shoes. But, when we stop to think, the list of what is *essential* to our experiences is very short. If we keep this in mind, we might be more likely to overlook that new shiny thing we saw at the store or online. 

  10. Thanks, Paul! Congratulations on achieving all that you have.

  11. Thanks, Chris. I do agree that, as gift givers, there are certain emotions we are hoping to elicit in the gift receiver. In my experience, though, something I made or quality time spent can be more fulfilling than giving something physical (like a new handbag) that I didn’t think too long about. That’s just me, though!

  12. Hi Trevor! Thank you for your comment. I do agree, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could elicit that joy without giving material goods than in a few weeks will be thrown by the wayside? Some material goods last forever, and some are soon to be found in the trash or piling up in the basement. If we focus on giving quality gifts that have true inherit meaning, maybe we could avoid some of the holiday season gift-giving allure?

  13. Jorge Blanco says:

    I like this: “Give memories.” One way we can do that this holiday is to plan out some activities that everyone can enjoy and cherish for years to come. Create games during the family gathering or a fun activity.

  14. Lucille says:

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