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gift-553146_640When you grow up with a mom who has a shopping addiction and a mild case of hoarding you develop a skewed perception of stuff. My mom was one of the most generous people I knew. She definitely spoiled us, but at the same time, stuff started to take over our lives.

The Problem With Stuff

As a mom myself now, I want to get my children things they want, but at the same time I don’t want a massive amount of toys cluttering up the house. I’ve found that experience gifts are a perfect solution.

A Gift Worth Waiting For

My daughter has been asking to attend gymnastics classes for the last two years, but it just hasn’t been in our budget. So for her birthday I prepaid for six weeks of classes and presented her with a card explaining her gift. I also got her a leotard.

At first it felt weird not wrapping up a bunch of presents, but I knew I was getting her something that she really wanted. I had to focus on the quality of my gift rather than the quantity (or lack thereof). Just as I predicted, she was overjoyed. She had her first class last week and she kept telling me, “Mom, I love it!”

It also stirred up some nostalgia for me to see her up on that balance beam. That was my favorite when I was a gymnast. Watching her felt like I was passing my legacy on to her.

If you want an alternative to traditional gifts like toys, clothes, or books, here are five great reasons to give kids experience gifts.

1. Something To Look Forward To – After all the other gifts have been opened, played with a handful of times and pushed aside, an experience gift is still there, promising something fun and exciting is still waiting for them.

One of my favorite gifts my mother gave me when I was in high school was tickets to see Les Miserables in New York City. I had been listening to the soundtrack CD for months and when I finally got to see the play, it was amazing! I didn’t mind that I had to wait a few weeks for the play. If anything it felt like it extended my birthday.

2. Less Clutter – As I mentioned before, I really don’t like too many toys hanging around, especially when they aren’t being played with very often. Experience gifts like a special trip, art, dance or gymnastics classes won’t contribute to the clutter in your house.

3. Give Something That You Normally Couldn’t Afford– So many extracurricular activities are expensive. They certainly don’t fit into our tight budget, so we’ve had to be very selective about which activities my kids do. Since I would normally spend money on birthday presents, I was able to use that money to give my daughter something I normally couldn’t afford.

4. More Memories – How many of your toys do you really remember from your childhood? Maybe a handful if you’re lucky. No matter how much our children beg us for toys, they typically don’t occupy our children for long. Giving an experience gift gives children memories that will last them a lifetime.

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5. Quality Time – Experience gifts usually give parents or other family members quality time with the children. Whether it’s a trip to the zoo, an art class you take together or just watching them twirl around the floor at their dance class, what the giver receives is time. Time to watch your child really enjoying something, seeing them light up with excitement. Sure, maybe it’s hard to run them to classes on a weekly basis or to and from their favorite sport, but it’s also time that you get to spend with them.

Years from now, they’ll remember that you were there with them. Even if you were just in the background watching from the bleachers or sitting silently in the corner of the room, you’ll become part of those happy memories.

I can’t for the life of me tell you what badges I earned when I was in Girl Scouts, but I’ll never forget that my mom volunteered to be my troop leader. While it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas gift, her willingness to give me and the other girls her time every week is something I still think about proudly.

I would love to ditch a lot of my kids’ physical presents in favor of experience gifts. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get my husband on board for Christmas, but at least for birthdays it’s become a great alternative.

What experience gifts have you given your kids that they loved?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

To the frugal warrior practicality is king. My husband knows this and that’s why I pretty much know that whatever he gets me for the holidays or my birthday is going to have some practical purpose.

Diamond Bracelets Vs. No-Barf Bands

PSI Bands
This year, he scored a home-run gift with a set of Psi bands. For those that don’t know, these acupressure bracelets are used to relieve nausea from motion sickness or in my case morning sickness. For the past few days I’ve been wearing them I haven’t prayed to the porcelain god even once and for that reason I couldn’t love his gift more if they had been diamond tennis bracelets.

If you didn’t get what you wanted for the holidays, here are four strategies to make the most of your exchanges or gift cards.

Save Money By Skipping The Sexy Items

1. Get Items You REALLY Need – It’s not a sexy choice to redeem gift cards or use store credit from gift exchanges on things you need, but it’ll certainly benefit your budget. I used some store credit from a return on a pair of maternity pants. That is pretty much the definition of an unsexy gift, BUT my belly is much happier not having the circle from the button on my jeans tattooed on my skin.

Use the money you would have spent from your budget on that needed item wisely. You can put it toward your emergency fund, toward that big purchase you’ve been dreaming of, or toward paying off debt. Frugal warriors like myself know that there is nothing sexier than freedom from debt.

Shop Like A Frugal Rock Star

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2. Hit The Clearance Racks Hard – Now that the holidays are over, stores will be clearing out winter merchandise that didn’t sell so there are some great opportunities to save big by hitting the clearance and sales racks. Plus that store credit or gift card will go that much further when you can get twice as much stuff.

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

3. Re-gift It or Sell It – Got a gift card to a store you never shop at or a gift you can’t possibly use? Then why not re-gift it to someone who can use it? Or you can sell it online, think ebay, craigslist, cardpool and the like. But keep in mind you aren’t going to get the full retail value, but something is definitely better than nothing.

Recycling With HEART

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4. Donate Unwanted Items or Gift Cards –
Consider donating unwanted gifts to charity. It’s like recycling with heart. You can get a tax credit for gifts made to IRS registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, just be sure to ask for a receipt.

What are you going to do with those gifts that really didn’t fit the bill?

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