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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

The Benefit of Experience-Based Gifts

No matter how hard we might try, finding the perfect gift is scientifically unfeasible. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, we give gifts that we think will reflect well on us and endear us to the recipient—not what the recipient actually wants.

This year skip the search for the perfect item and instead bestow the gift of a great time. Compared with material goods, experiences bring more happiness, according to research published in Psychological Science. When people spend resources on experiences instead of stuff, they get an uptick in happiness and excitement in advance of the experience that outpaces the boost given by the anticipation of a material good. Experiences trump material goods when it comes to long-term happiness, too. Experiences offer a social element, so we can build up relationships with them, and once the experience is over, it’s something we can discuss with others. (A trip to Japan is much more interesting conversation fodder than describing the features of a new camera.) Read on for just a few ideas for fun, experiential gifts.

Woman with Camera


A well-chosen subscription service makes for a perfectly practical gift that delivers for months to come. Here are some of our favorites:

When it comes to food delivery, few subscriptions can beat the do-good feeling of Love with Food. Every month, your foodie friend will receive a box filled with organic and all-natural snacks based on seasonal items. What's more, for every box sold, a meal is donated to food banks such as the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength-No Kid Hungry. $8 a month, Love with Food

Thrill your favorite bookworm with a subscription to a book-delivery service. The indie ebook store Emily Books will automatically upload a carefully selected ebook to their device every month. Or for commuters, try an Audible subscription, so your pal can download any audiobook that strikes her fancy. $14 a month, Emily Books; $15, Audible

Vinesse offers an "Earth-Friendly Wine Club," which will send your loved one wines from vineyards that use age-old farming methods to become self-sustaining ecosystems. You can select the number of bottles and frequency. From $42 to $276. Vinesse


Taking a cooking class together is a fun undertaking, and results in new skills that can be practiced daily. Read on for more ideas:

Check your local co-op for a variety of cooking classes. The staff may also be aware of local butchers, cheese makers and more who offer classes to interested parties.

Pastry is a delicate art, and a class can help you learn technique and have fun making treats together. Culinary schools sometimes offer recreational classes (such as those at the Institute of Culinary Education), but you can also explore the prospect of classes at local pastry shops or specialty stores.

Williams-Sonoma offers a variety of cooking classes at its locations around the country. There are classes for kids, cookbook club classes, technique classes and more traditional cooking classes.

Sur la Table also rolls out a full menu of cooking classes each season. Visit their website to see a full list of class offerings.


Trying something out-of-the-ordinary can make for lasting memories—as a bonus the right recipient will be thrilled with the unexpected nature of the gift. Keep reading for more info:

An afternoon of rock climbing can be an adventure by itself, or it may turn into a full-fledged hobby for you both to share. Find climbing gyms across the U.S.

Taekwondo, an ancient martial art, can be fun for the entire family. To explore the adventure of taking a class together, check out this great directory of schools across the nation.

Jumping out of a plane definitely constitutes adventure. Find out whether skydiving might be ideal for your adventure experience by looking up the dropzone nearest you.

Hit the highway for a road trip. Whether you simply want to treat your loved one to unexpected sights and hideaways near home or strike out for the opposite coast, the planning website Roadtrippers can help you find attractions, scenic routes and places to stay.

Experience Wanted

Check out these five ideas for experience-based gifts.

A meal at their Favorite Restaurant
It might sound boring, but few things are better than a free meal at your favorite spot.

• Or share the gift of a home-cooked meal.

Tickets to an Event
An evening of togetherness out on the town can’t be beat.

• Consider tickets to a  concert, a play, the symphony or a sporting event.

A Family Trip
Skip all the stuff this year, and take the family on an adventure instead.

• You could also consider a couples trip or a getaway with friends you don’t see often.

Gift of Relaxation
Depending on your recipient’s needs, consider a massage, a spa treatment, an acupressure session or a yoga class.

• You could even arrange to pick them up afterward for lunch.

Natural Attraction
Check out resources near your recipient’s home that offer events of interest.

• Check into botanical gardens, a national park, a wildlife refuge or an amusement park.