It’s your special day. You are turning 53 and the excitement is building for the family dinner you are attending later today. But a dread comes over you as you think about what gifts people may be bringing. Then guilt sets in because you should feel grateful for what you are about to receive. But what will you do with another (fill in the blank)?

Over the years I have become more of a minimalist. Moving into an RV full time helps that transition. Every purchase I make comes with the question, “Will it fit in the RV?” Amazingly, things in the store look a lot smaller than they do in the motorhome. Even that bag of chips you picked up at Costco, because they were such a good deal, takes up two square feet of your very limited space.

When I try to convey a message to family members that we really do not need anything, they still insist on giving a gift. Living the minimalist lifestyle means we put more value on experiences than we do on things. But you don’t need to be a minimalist to feel the joy of having an experience with a loved one instead of a physical gift that will fade with time.

Giving experiences instead of stuff shows you really know something about that person. You know they like to ride the scariest roller coaster at the amusement park, or attend the local symphony’s performance of the Nutcracker. And sharing the experience with them is even better.

Traditions are made from experiences, not stuff.

In the beginning of this story, the 53 year old probably has what they need. This means they are extremely difficult to buy for. Am I right? We all have those people in our lives. Gifting an experience can be a simpler option in some cases. Would they enjoy going to a concert? A National Park pass? A course to learn how to paint?

If you love this person enough to get them a gift, you also know what they love to do.

You get the point. Now what can you do next.

  • Pull out your calendar and write in all your important gift giving dates – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, holidays, etc.
  • Create a spreadsheet with the person’s name in one column, and ideas for experiential gifts in the second column. Look at local events that are scheduled within a month of those gift-giving dates.
  • Keep this list with your calendar so you can easily pull it out as you flip the page on your calendar.

This will eliminate the stress that comes around gift giving. You know the kind when the date is next week and you need to mail something 1,500 miles away.

We used to give big experiences to my parents when they were alive. My dad loved trains and worked around them for years until he retired. They retired to Florida, and we ended up living in many places out west. While we were in western Colorado, we had them fly into Denver and arranged for train tickets on the California Zephyr, which winds its way across the Rockies. Another gift was a week on a houseboat with us in Lake Powell.

Each year we tried to give them memories, and that is what we did. Now that they are gone, I still have those memories.