Even though at different times in my life I have been an avid collector of a number of things, these days I’m more interested in paring down my possessions rather than adding to them.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the dopamine rush I get from acquiring a shiny new thing is fleeting. Having recently cleaned out my garage, I’ve come across boxes and boxes of stuff that I forgot I ever owned and decided to donate for others to enjoy instead of allowing it to continue taking up space. Rather than spend money on some new-fangled thing that might soon just take up space on a shelf or find its way to a box in the garage, why not spend your money on things your loved one will appreciate without adding to the clutter? Here are 10 gift ideas that are more than just “stuff.”
Experiences make memories and almost nothing is tied to memory more than music. With concert tickets, not only do you get to experience something en masse that no home theater surround sound system can replicate, you get an excuse to get out of the house and make a new memory. While big-name acts can be a strain on your budget, smaller venues or even a local open mic can expose you to new artists that just may become your new favorite thing.
Bibliophiles rejoice! Books have long been a gift-giving staple, but now, thanks to the proliferation of the digital medium, you can enjoy endless books without burying your nightstand. Audiobooks can be found at numerous places. Amazon’s Audible.com is the most prolific, but you can find them at a number of places and load the .mp3s to a CD to listen in the car or stream from your mobile device anywhere on the go. For those who still enjoy reading the written word, e-readers and kindles have gotten more and more affordable which means your loved one can fit a virtual bookshelf of novels in their device.
I love movies, and still have tons of Blu-rays, DVDs, and even VHS tapes I’ve accumulated over the years. However, there’s no movie experience I love more than going to see a new release in the theater. Thanks to the new Movie Pass subscription service, anyone with a smartphone can see every movie at the multiplex for less than $10 per month. We’ve reviewed Movie Pass here at GeekDad before, and as skeptical as I was reading about it, I picked one up myself and it works like a champ and pays for itself in one visit.
Many of these picks will be about making memories, but what about crafting a video slideshow to showcase the memories you and your loved one have already shared? Even if you’re lacking technical movie-making experience, there are plenty of free and cheap tools like Adobe Spark for folks to make videos and multimedia slideshows. Load up a bunch of your favorite photos from a trip, insert some of your favorite music, or maybe even add some custom narration and have a treasured memento that someone can revisit again and again.
Need a quick trip out without worrying about breaking the bank each time? Most season passes offer a full year’s worth of fun for only slightly more than the cost of one or two regular visits. Amusement parks, museums, and even the national parks offer affordable annual passes. Despite multiple visits, it seems that each time I use my season pass to Six Flags, I find something new and fun to do. Plus, knowing you can come back anytime without an additional fee means you don’t feel pressure to “get your money’s worth” and do and see everything in one visit.
It may not be easy to wrap, but using your money to fund a fun excursion to a nearby or remote locale is always a fun surprise. Sure, you could spend a few hundred dollars to buy the newest game system, but you could also use that money to see parts of the country you’ve never experienced. To add to the fun for the recipient, you could pick the destination, but offer them the opportunity to pick their itinerary of cool things to do while visiting. While this can very well be a monumental week-long luxury vacation experience, even just a fun overnight stay within reasonable driving distance will mix things up enough to be worth it.
I’m not a fan of most crate services or monthly subscription boxes since most of that stuff just ends up sitting on a shelf, getting passed off to a friend, or finds its way to a junk drawer. However, with the advent of several meal-in-a-box services, saving someone the hassle of finding a meal is much easier. Some of the subscription services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron deliver fresh ingredients you cook on your own, but an even easier option is something like using Uber Eats to deliver a loved one a ready-to-eat meal.
I don’t think anyone has ever turned down the gift of being pampered. Show your loved one how much you appreciate all the work they do by letting them rest and relax with either a massage or a mani/pedicure. If you can’t afford such a luxury, then offer up some in-home relaxation with some dedicated downtime where they don’t have to lift a finger and can enjoy whatever form of relaxation they want without interruption.
The gift of music has always been a popular option, but with digital media means you can give hours of listening enjoyment without needing to get another Case Logic storage container. If you’re looking for cost savings, think of simply creating your own personalized YouTube or Spotify playlist. You know, the modern equivalent of what us old people call “mixtapes.”
Charity of Choice
While this might be considered an impersonal option by some, for others making a donation to a charity in someone’s name means they can feel like they played a part in doing some good in this world. If you’d like to make the recipient feel a little more involved, offer up three different possibilities for where a donation could go and have them make the call. When most of us have more than we truly need to survive, giving a gift to those less fortunate can add some much-needed meaning to a mostly commercial event.
Remember when you were a kid and didn’t have any money? Did you ever give those “IOU” notes to your parents offering to do some chore beyond your normal duties? Well, those still work. Coming home to a home-cooked meal, a spotless house, or a finding a laundry list of to-do items already checked off the list can often be more meaningful and even more valuable than some $10 trinket.