According to a poll released this month by Gallup, American adults are planning to spend an average of $830 on holiday gifts this year. Not only is this $110 more than last years projected average, but its also the highest on record since 2007. However, a new study by Cornell University psychology professor Tom Gilovich indicates that the best way to increase the enjoyment, satisfaction and general happiness of your loved ones during the holidays is to give them real-life experiences – not material gifts.
In addition to being less expensive than a typical present, a shared experience with a loved one has a longer shelf life and can even help us define who we are as people. Here are five holiday experiences you can give your family and friends that wont cost an arm and a leg – and are sure to make everyone involved feel loved and appreciated.
- Experience the great outdoors. If you live in a winter wonderland, take your family skiing or on a snowshoe expedition. For those of you in warmer climates, go on a family hike or walk on the beach. Being active in a natural setting is far more memorable than sitting around indoors and watching TV.
- Volunteer. Service to others is a wonderful way to bring your family closer together –especially during the holidays. Consider a service project for someone in need, adopt an underprivileged family or foster child for gift-giving, or volunteer time together at a community shelter, food bank or senior center. Not only will your kids learn the importance of giving back, but youll also have the privilege of making a difference as a family.
- Go to a holiday concert. Theres no substitute for a live musical performance, and there are plenty to choose from this time of year. Whether youre into classical or classic rock, holiday concerts are a great and memorable way to spend quality time with the people you care about the most.
- Cook together. It may get a little crowded in the kitchen, but cooking or baking with family and friends is a great – and delicious – way to ring in the holidays. Preparing food in a group setting leads to wonderful conversations, and makes everyone involved feel included and important. Plus when you actually have a hand in preparing a meal, it makes everything taste better!
- Take a family vacation. Instead of buying presents for everyone this year, take that money and use it to book a family vacation. Heading someplace unfamiliar will break up everyones routine, force you to relax, and prevent you from taking each other for granted. Whats more, the memories will last a lot longer than your childs interest in this years must-have toy, outfit, or video game.