“Does this spark joy?” asks Marie Kondo about our possessions. The answer is usually YES! on Christmas morning or at a holiday party when we unwrap our presents and watch others enjoy their gifts as well. But once the New Year rolls around many of those gifts are fighting for closet space with holiday decorations and all the stuff we keep meaning to donate. And one thing that definitely doesn’t “spark joy” is household clutter.
While the shine tends to wear off presents must faster than we expect, many researchers have concluded that spending money on experiences rather than stuff can create more meaningful and lasting happiness. This holiday season, consider putting money towards one of these gifts to create memories for years to come.
1. Lessons or classes
What’s better than buying your spouse his favorite bottle of wine? Tickets to the tasting events at your local wine shop so that you can schedule some date nights, learn something, and have some fun together. Rather than adding to the stack of stuff that represents your kids’ interests, find a class or a teacher who can help them learn more and grow their skills. Maybe it’s time to move on from YouTube chord progression videos to a professional guitar teacher. Your in-house gaming addict probably doesn’t need another game, but he might enjoy a coding class that will help him create his own and flex those STEM muscles.
2. Gift cards for a day out
Once upon a time, buying gift cards to restaurants and theatres might have said, “I didn’t know what else to get you.” Post-COVID, those gift cards will be a welcome passport to a night outside the house. If you’re still worried about making a “last-minute” impression, try to personalize the gift as much as possible. Think favorite restaurants, favorite cuisines, favorite plays or musical artists, or an experience you think someone might enjoy but wouldn’t spend money on themselves. Your gift card could spark a new passion for indoor rock climbing or the local opera company in a loved one.
3. Charitable giving
It’s never too early to involve your children in good works around the holidays. But as they approach adulthood and their consciousness of the world around them begins to grow, kids might value making a positive impact more than a fancy tablet or new clothes. Have a family conversation about the problems facing your community and the issues that your kids are passionate about.
If your family has a personal connection to a cause, talk about how you can honor that connection by donating your time and money. And once your kids are out of school and earning their own paychecks, you might consider working with your advisor to form a family Donor Advised Fund or charitable trust that will sustain your mission in perpetuity.
4. An extended family vacation
If you really want to go all-out for the holidays, schedule what could be a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. Get together as many of your loved ones as you can for that trip you’ve all been talking about taking for years. Coordinating the logistics will be a lot harder than buying your grandson a new cell phone. But that effort will only make the payoff that much more rewarding.
Before you get too excited about cruise lines or luxury resorts, how about we schedule a meeting to review your holiday gifting and vacation budgets for the next couple of years? We can also revisit your life transitions to talk about any major upcoming expenses and new goals that you want to plot for the year ahead.
This article was prepared for Aaron Larson’s use.