2008 Gift Giving Guide: Experience giving

In last year’s Experience Giving Guide, we listed four ideas for giving experiences rather than things: Pampering, Events, Food and Adventures.

This year we’re adding the gift of your time to the Experience Giving Guide list — and what a beautiful gift it is.

The gift of your time can be to spend an hour, a day, or an evening with the friend or loved one of your choice. You can set up the time for doing activities they enjoy, such as playing video games or taking a walk. Lock away your Blackberry so that you have quality time together without distractions.

Giving time is a good holiday stress reducer, too, because you’ll spend less money. The American Psychological Association names money as the #1 cause of stress over the holidays. With today’s economy, the pressure may be especially apparent this year. You can take yourself off the gift-buying hook by coming up with creative ways to give of your time (which is really giving of yourself).

One great time give-away is to offer a needed service to your gift recipient. Sometimes the things that are second-nature to you are downright hard or impossible for others to do. If it weren’t for my husband, I know that the gas fireplace would still be unusable, but for him it took all of 15 minutes to fix.

You can use your gift of time to help someone address something that would otherwise not get done unless they hired a professional.

What are your skills? Think about what you can do to assist people with time gift packages.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how you can offer your time this holiday season:

  • Paint a room
  • Update a resume
  • Plant a garden
  • Design a web page
  • Prepare a specialty meal
  • Take care of children
  • Organize a garage
  • Fix something that is broken

It can be fun to provide a service and spend time with someone.

In October of last year, I was spending time with my dear friend’s Grandma during her final months of life. I enjoyed talking with her and at the same time I wanted to do something useful. She asked me to help her organize her small closet. As we talked, I held up one sweater after another. Each sweater had a story behind it and she would light up, saying, “Oh, I like that one. Isn’t that a nice burgundy?” While she lay in bed, I folded her to-keep sweaters and placed them in a hanging sweater-holder. The others went into a give-away pile. We both really enjoyed the experience and, with her passing, I hold that simple afternoon of chatting and organizing as a treasure.

If you want to make a gift of time, create your own gift certificate. For my two college-going relatives, I printed out: COUPON — Good for One Afternoon of Washing Machine Usage, Tea, and Conversation. I know they’ll redeem that one. And, we’ll have a chance to catch up with each other.

Who could benefit from your gift of time? What ideas do you have for services you can offer as your gift of time?

13 Comments for “2008 Gift Giving Guide: Experience giving”

  1. posted by Liss on

    Since the majority of my husband’s and my siblings are married with children and we only do a rotation each year where we give to just one person, for the next few years I am giving a gift certificate good for 4 date nights or a weekend getaway of child care. Granted, we all live within a 50-100 mile radius. I’m cheating a bit though, knowing that most of them will choose the weekend getaway, meaning that we’d host two weekend getaways (one for my side, one for my husband’s side) each year as people would probably rather take us up on that than the date nights.
    It’s a gift I would want, it’s a gift of time, not money, and my children get to see their cousins in a less crowded and chaotic setting than the large family gatherings. Win-win all the way around!

  2. posted by rosie_kate on

    Yes! I love this idea!

    I used to give coupons to my parents for Mother’s and Father’s days when I was a kid.

    My husband no longer agonizes over what gift to get me (which I usually end up not really needing or liking…) and instead he checks off some things on my honey-do list. I absolutely love it! It’s way better than “stuff”. For my last birthday, he built me a pantry while I was gone for the day!

  3. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I love this concept, and my ideas at here:

  4. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    A friend is getting ready to have a baby – I’ve thought about volunteering our time to watch the baby for a few hours so they can have at least a little time relaxing.

  5. posted by Jen C on

    My mom is technologically … limited. The gift of time she will be getting this year is 1) a list of the greatest hits from the 60s and 70s, 2) downloads of the ones she wants and 3) transfer to her ipod. A gift of time I would like to get is having all my old
    photos scanned, labeled and burnt onto CD/DVD. Same with slides.

  6. posted by Lauren on

    Tabitha – Yes! I have a 5-month-old and I would love your gift of “a few hours”. Just make sure you make the parents choose a time to use it. Many new moms are afraid they will be imposing (even if you offered), but at the same time they are desperate for a nap, shower, time alone with their husband, etc.

  7. posted by whitecat on

    My mom is 90, and while she gets around very well (still driving, still keeping house, still doing laundry) she is sick and tired of cooking after all these years. Her husband is retired but she still has to do this work, which I find enormously unfair.

    So this year I am sending her home-cooked food, because I LOVE to cook. I’m making lamb stew, turkey soup, and avgolemono; various cheese spreads and crackers for her guests; and quickbreads: maple walnut, banana, orange cranberry, lemon blueberry. I’m sending the soups and stew frozen along with everything to serve with: grated Parmesan, Monterey jack, couscous. It’s all MUCH more healthful than the preservative-laden stuff she’d buy at the store.

    I’m having a blast making it all and typing up descriptions and directions on what goes with what. I could see doing this once a month to save her some work and to give her really great food. I’ll package it all in double ziplocks so if it thaws it won’t spill.

    Bonus for her: she gets to brag about her daughter’s cooking. This will mean as much to her as the relief of not cooking will.

  8. posted by Michele on

    I’m thinking about converting all my parents’ records to mp3 for them. They’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves, but they would never take the time.

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  12. posted by prairiegal on

    Love this! I’ve already mentioned that my husband will be getting date night promise notes to his favorite restaurants.

    I like everything neat and tidy and I hate the our computer cords are such a mess, so for Christmas I asked him for this. http://www.decluttered.com/

    My family has decided that gift giving is not really working for us, since we all buy what we for ourselves whenever we want it, so if my brother asks, I’m going to ask for one change of snow tires. He has all the tools and does his own, so I’d really appreciate it if he did mine too.

  13. posted by Anastasia on

    These are great ideas! My parent’s already have WAY too much stuff, so for Christmas this year I offered to refinish and re-cane one of my dad’s antique chairs. Not only am I giving the time to restoring a memory of his but I’m also clearing the basement of a broken chair!

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