You’ve seen it year after year now–the “deals” that come tumbling into your phone notifications and email inbox. Every retailer imaginable feeding a narrative that seems to build on itself like an avalanche until it becomes a seemingly unstoppable force. That narrative: that there’s low-hanging fruit waiting to be plucked, and if you miss it, well–you MISSED IT! Imagine how much worse your life will be if you don’t land that DEAL! If it feels like this message is being screamed at you, that’s only because it is–from all sides.
But let’s pause for a moment and consider this message. Is it true? How does it jibe with your experience as a consumer?
Think about last year. How much of the stuff you bought (for just a great deal!) last year is something you still use? Do you even still have any of those items? Chances are, even if you have them, you probably don’t use them. Maybe they turned out to be not what you’d hoped. Maybe the enticement of a deal got you so wound up you purchased something you found you didn’t really want. And where does it end up? In the trash? Donated to charity? Passed on to someone else?
We can all agree that giving is good, but how can you give better? How do you stop yourself from falling for the same consumerist trap every year?
Here we’ll discuss 5 reasons to stop giving “stuff” and start giving experiences instead!
Memory, not stuff, makes your identity
True, sometimes giving stuff IS giving an experience. Who doesn’t remember being a kid and tearing the wrapping paper of a hoped-for gift? Maybe it broke the next day or you played with it for years, but that moment is what you were really given. That moment is what you take with you. When you experience something, it influences your whole future–every future decision you make. The trick is that your mind tends to jettison memories of things that seem to be useless or mundane–like the disappointing gift you got from your Aunt Sally. Why hang on to that memory? The memory of receiving it is gone at almost the same moment the gift itself is discarded or put in a closet–out of sight, out of mind.
Experiences, on the other hand, remain, especially if it takes the person out of the mundane grind of daily life. Maybe it’s something they would love to do, but for some reason wouldn’t ever decide to try on their own? Maybe the experience you give them will actually help them to become a better person, or will help them achieve a goal they’ve always wanted to reach for. Giving an experience is giving them something that will stick with them, something they’ll be telling their friends about, something they might even remember on their death bed.
Giving STUFF–bad for the economy
When you give stuff, you’re playing an odd game of roulette with your giving. Maybe they’ll find that thing useful or entertaining. But you can’t always be sure. For this reason, economists have argued that gifting is actually bad for the economy: people spend good money on something for another person, which most of the time is unwanted by that other person. This evaluation passes over the social value of gifting, but the point is well taken. Aren’t we being a bit wasteful, spending money on this stuff (on sale!) that’s likely to be forgotten anyway?
Experiences don’t need storage units or landfills
Americans are drowning in stuff. The off-site storage unit business has exploded in recent decades as people find there’s not enough room in their houses-garages-attics-basements for all their STUFF. And they cling to that STUFF so dearly that they’re actually willing to take on considerable monthly rental fees just to keep it under someone else’s roof across town.
On the other end of the spectrum, regarding STUFF we throw away, that has to go somewhere. We contaminate soil and defile the natural world just so we can bury the STUFF we can’t use anymore. Maybe some of it gets recycled, but that recycling process doesn’t come without environmental cost. And let’s not forget the energy spent, the natural resources used to produce that nick-knack in the first place. And all for what? A transitory feeling of pleasure at opening a gift, at best, and a feeling of disappointment and obligation at worst. Doesn’t it make more sense to send your loved one to a concert, or give them an excuse to finally visit that museum they’ve always wanted to check out?
Everybody loves a good experience
Great experiences know no age. Young or old, everyone likes to have fun, to learn new things, to have a chance to improve themselves. We’re wired to enjoy novelty, no matter what form it takes, and no matter how young or old we are. And that novelty is far more memorable when it comes in the form of experience that delights all the senses and isn’t just another soon-to-be-forgotten shiny thing.
Experiences are easier to buy
There’s at least one person on your list who’s impossible to shop for–that person who doesn’t seem to want anything, or who already has everything they could want (that’s in your price range). Or maybe it’s just hard to tell what they would want. Buying them an experience is so much easier! Think about that difficult person on your list: do they like learning new things, eating out, getting massages, going to plays or concerts? Chances are they like at least ONE of these things! And you only need one!
On top of all this, experiences can be given year after year! Did they love that massage gift certificate they got last year? Why not give it again? Maybe you could even add on enough for them to try one of our great session enhancements or try a longer massage. Sure, you sent them to the symphony last year, but maybe they’d love to see a rock concert this year.
Giving experiences beats giving stuff for so many reasons. We could keep going, but we don’t want to keep you. Get out there and enjoy the experiences of your life. And when it’s time to gift, share those experiences with those you love.
Be good to yourself this week.
Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to design your logo, create social media posts and other content, or strategically develop your brand by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org