There is a movement going on right now that I really love. It’s a movement that is stepping away from giving gifts that are materials and instead investing in life experience gifts. This means so much to me because when I think back on my childhood, I remember some of the toys that I had but mostly I remember who played with me. I remember surprise trips to a hotel for the weekend. More than Halloween candy I remember my dad playing an old spooky cassette tape int he car while we drove down a dark dirt road through the woods. Those experiences will be with me for as long as my memory can hold them. Every single possession I own may be gone but those memories, those life experiences will stay with me. That’s why this list of 28 unique life experience gifts you can give instead of buying stuff is so important.
*This post contains affiliate links. Although I may make a commission, all recommendations are my own.
What is an experience gift
If you didn’t already gather what exactly an experience gift is it’s this: using your money to give someone an experience gift for their life rather than purchasing them an item. Some experience that will enhance their life and bring a smile to their face.
You know how people make bucket lists for their lives? Most of the things on those lists have nothing to do with stuff.
Help someone you love add something to their bucket list this year. Whether it’s for Christmas, a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day…any single excuse you have for gift giving, consider experience gifts instead of buying something from the store.
Why are experience gifts better than stuff?
We only get one life. When I was 6 I wanted a My Size Barbie. I didn’t understand that by the age of 8 she would be out of my life forever more than likely. I would get bored of her and she would end up getting donated. What I won’t forget is spending hours putting on my own plays. I won’t forget going sledding with my dad or camping with my mom.
Those experiences made me who I am. When I go through life, I like looking back on these things and saying, “I did that.”
- Been my true self
- Hadn’t worked so hard
- Should have expressed my feelings
- Had stayed in touch with friends
- Would have been happier
None of these things have anything to do with material possessions…except that perhaps they were held back by them. Our life experiences matter. Our lives matter.
How to budget for experiences
One major thing people forget to budget for is fun!! It’s sad but true.
Many people want to have more time and money freed up in order to do more experience type things.
Unfortunately, most people are budgeting wrong — which doesn’t leave much money left for these amazing experiences and adventures they want to have!
Learning to budget hack helped my family free up over $1,000 per month to start saving toward our future and more experiences for our family!
Can you still get discounts on experience gifts?
Don’t worry, I wouldn’t create a list of life experience gifts without telling you how you can still save money and stick to a budget! There are 5 places I always go-to when it comes to saving on experiences in my area or on vacation.
Before you go anywhere, do anything or buy anything, see if you get Rakuten discounts first!
They offer discounts on a variety of stores, hotels, travel sites and so. much. more. Sign up and get $10 free!
With most rebate apps, you have to browse and select your discounts. Dosh, pays attention to your spending and automatically refunds you on any qualifying purchases you make. Link a card and get $5 free!
If you love having to get-togethers or going out at different local restaurants, then you have got to check out Restaurant.com!
They offer a huge variety of gift cards for local restaurants that you always eat at!
Is there any better way to save on local excursions and classes than through Groupon?
I often base my experience gifts solely on what Groupon has to offer. Not only do you save money, but chances are you’ll find new experiences that you normally wouldn’t have known about.
Airbnb has taken their experience to a whole new level.
Not only can you enjoy a vacation through Airbnb homestays, but now you can partake in a wide variety of experiences like wine tasting, local tours, excursions and more!
Experience Gifts For the whole family
My absolute favorite experience gift to myself or those I love is the gift of travel! Traveling together and experiencing different places, people and cultures is what life is all about after all!
Best places to find great travel packages:
Gift cards are every experience gift seekers dream. Right?
You give them money so they can do exactly what they choose with it. Even if it means they spend all day at the mall buying stuff…they are still out and about getting a little life experience and some light exercise.
An easy way to earn gift cards for free is by taking surveys in your spare time through iSay.
A Photography session
If you want to treat a family, consider funding a photography session for them! This is an extra great idea for grandparents who want to get their children and grand-children together in one photo!
Never underestimate the value of capturing memories or the people in your life!
Everyone loves a good night out bowling, right? Groupon always seems to have great discounts on local bowling alleys so you can easily spend an entire day together!
Do you have a painter in your family or are trying to find a fun life experience gift for you and your significant other? See if there are any paint nights near you. There are usually a lot of local places that are willing to supply food and drinks along with a full tutorial on how to paint your own beautiful painting.
This is also a great gift idea for parents to give their grown children and spouses! How fun to get everyone out for a night!
To find other fun excursions in your area checkout Tours4Fun! You can use this when you’re on vacation or just check out local tour experiences that are happening near you!
I have to admit, I still have not experienced an escape room which is shocking because they are crazy popular these days. Because you have to work together to escape a room filled with puzzles, riddles, and mazes, it’s a perfect experience for a family!
Experience Gifts For Kids
While this is still a gift that comes with “stuff” is also comes with a ton of beneficial knowledge for those little ones in your life.
Little Passports is a great learning site that will send your child(ren) monthly kits to learn about different topics. You can choose from early learning kits that teach about things like animals and music.
We took advantage of their United States kit. Each month our kids got to learn about 2 different US states, play games from their culture and even make recipes popular in that particular state.
Professional sports coaching
If you have an older kid who loves sports, why not look into a lesson from a professional!? Yes, I mean an actual pro athlete!
You can give the gift of basketball tips from Steven Curry with an online teaching program called MasterClass!
It’s online, affordable and would be such a great way to make your child feel like they just got one on one tips from one of their role models! Plus, you don’t have to drive them anywhere!
Chances are you are already buying your little ones healthy snacks throughout the month.
Urthbox is a great company that does all of that health research and snack searching for you!
Get an Urthbox snack subscription and your kiddo will get healthy, new, fun snacks delivered to their door every month!
Funding college tuition
For the last few years whenever family or friends give our kids money for their birthday or holidays, we have been putting that money into their savings account.
Let’s be honest, otherwise, it just gets spent on more toys they don’t need! A great way to make this even easier is through the U-Nest app.
For $3 per month and a minimum investment of $25 you can start saving for your child(ren)’s college education tax-free!! Then, if you have family or friends who want to give them a gift, they can donate toward their college fund as well!
I guess I am sticking with the food theme! But, one of the things I have wanted to do for my children is to teach them how to cook for themselves! That has meant flipping grilled cheese, making scrambled eggs and helping with mashed potatoes.
During out last school year, we used the Organic Baking Subscription from FoodStirs. Every other month my kids got great baking kits like 4th of July cake push pops, Valentine’s Day doughnuts, and spring time mud pies!
Other posts you’ll love
- 8 Ways to Pay for a Night Out Without Working More
- The Best 6 Gifts for Kids That Bring Lasting Joy
- Ultimate Minimalist Mom Gift List to Avoid Clutter
Experience Gifts For Anyone
Wine of the month club
Hellooooo dream come true! Any fellow wine lovers will adore this present! The Wine of the Month club is real folks.
You can purchase a subscription or send some wine as a gift! Either way, this is a fun, adult way to test out some new wine!
Is there someone in your life who is really wanting to improve their health and get in shape? A lot of times, the cost of a gym membership is too much for people and they never take advantage of the benefits of working out.
If a gym membership is not do-able, consider gifting the Aaptiv fitness app. This app allows people to work with trainers in all areas of fitness at the gym OR at home. Plus, the first 30 days are free, so if they don’t like it, you can cancel!
Similar to Wine of the Month Club, Vinebox is another great option for those wine lovers in your life.
The wines arrive every 4 months and you get a sample size of different wines.
This is a great option for couples with small children. Because it’s tough to get out of the house this is like a date night in a box!
Just like the kids, cooking classes are a good idea for adults as well! You can always browse Groupon for local cooking classes in your area, or you could pop open a bottle of wine at home and get a cooking class from some of the pros!
I mean how cool to give the gift of a class from your favorite chef?
It seems these days more and more people are getting into photography!
For that photographer in your life, you might consider getting them into some local photography classes or again, getting them in on a class with a pro like famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Concert and show tickets
If there is a local concert or show in your area that you would love to gift to someone, check Seatsforeveryone.com for the best and most affordable tickets around!
So we’ve covered the wine lovers in your life, but what about those who have a soft spot in their hearts for beer?
Why not give the gift of the Beer of the Month Club!
This is such a great way for that beer enthusiast in your life to sample different beers from different breweries from around the country without having to go any further than their front door!
For that person in your life with a passion for writing, MasterClass offers a variety of different writing classes you can take with a wide range of different successful writers! People like:
- Malcolm Gladwell
- Shonda Rhimes teachings writing for television
- Judy Blume
- Dan Brown teaches writing thrillers
Massage and spa days
Nothing says “I love you, mom” like a spa day.
Treat the woman in your life (or man) to a full treatment spa day.
There are probably a ton of Groupon options out there for different discounts in your area. Just make sure to check reviews before you book!
If you live in a cold state like we do here in Minnesota, there is no better gift than the gift of a car starter!
During those cold winter months, people will adore the experience of not freezing to death having to go outside to start their cars. Believe me.
Again, you can search Groupon for local music lessons in your area or you can always gift someone online classes with one of their favorite musicians. MasterClass offers some of these great music legends right in the comfort of your own home:
Maybe fitness classes don’t sound like the greatest gift in the world but they could be a great chance to try something new and do it with a friend!
There are so many great fitness classes these days like hot yoga, aerial classes, pole classes, dance classes. You name it, they’ve thought of it. Check Groupon to see if any fun classes stand out in your area.
Manicure and/or pedicure
Whether you are a man or woman a day where you are treated to a mani/pedi together is always a relaxing way to spend the day.
Again, this may not be an adventurous life experience, but how much more could a person in your life do if they didn’t have to stress about deep cleaning their house?
If you know someone who is overwhelmed at this time in their lives, this may be the exact gift they need to calm their souls and raise their spirits.
Gun or archery range
Sure, I’ll end on this note. Why not. Now, I know this gift isn’t for everyone, but you don’t have to be a hunter or a “gun nut” to have fun being outdoors at a shooting range.
Whether it’s a stress reliever, fun practice or just a unique experience you’re after, this might be the ticket!
The most important thing about gift-giving is making sure you are buying something perfect for the person you are giving the gift to.
Maybe they love unique experience gifts or perhaps they just really want that new KitchenAid they keep talking about. No matter what, it’s important to think about the person receiving the gift. If you don’t, you run the risk of spending money on a gift that may never be used.
Also, I am a firm believer that there is so much more out there than just giving gifts. Life is short and there is no better present then just spending time with the people you love the most. That’s something anyone can do, even if you’re flat broke!