BY EXTENSION: Experiences Make the Best Gifts

By Nancy Kershaw, Professor, Family & Community Health, OSU Extension Service, Tillamook County

Shopping for the perfect gift this holiday season? There are so many considerations, such as will you shop local, online or a big box store? Or you may be asking yourself what to buy for each person on your list. So why not be one of the 15% of people who give a gift of an experience instead? It could be a gift certificate for your friend or significant other for a night on the town, and a camp or afterschool program for your kids or grandkids. Or perhaps a movie pass, or how about a day at the zoo?

Studies suggest that from a happiness perspective, a good way to spend your money is buying experiences rather than material gifts. Research finds that experiential gifts are felt at a deeper level and forge a stronger emotional connection between the giver and gift recipient. Several studies show that when recipients receive an experience, even if they don’t share in that experience with the gift-giver, they feel more connected to the gift-giver as a result compared to receiving a material gift. (Mogilner & Chan, 2015).
One reason that buying or giving an experience is better is because it creates a memory the recipient can return to. Material gifts tend to sit on the shelf and lose their newness, while a memory is bright every time you remember the experience. And for those who enjoy social media such as Facebook or Instagram, experiences make great posts. Studies also demonstrate that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable than waiting to receive a material gift. (Kumar, Killingsworth, & Gilovich, 2014).
Another advantage of the gift of experiences is that they don’t typically add to the clutter in your home. So go ahead and think outside the ribbon-wrapped box.
Convinced that experiences make the best gifts? Then the OSU Extension Service has something for the art lovers on your list. OSU Extension Service & Art Accelerated have partnered to provide artistic expression classes for adults as part of our Family & Community Health programs and for youth through the 4-H program. Art Accelerated is a local non-profit artist-based organization promoting the arts in Tillamook County.

In fact, research has shown that engaging in creative artistic expression, including expressive writing, visual arts, music, and movement-based expression can have many positive impacts on health. Creative expression can improve mood, reduce chronic pain, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Some studies also show relationships between creative expression and improved healing time and reduced risk of chronic disease. (Stuckey & Nobel, 2011). So stop by the OSU Extension Service and check out the Art Accelerated classes for the adults on your list. Classes include Express Yourself! With Acrylics; Through Writing; and by Smashing Plates & Giving New Life to the Shards.

Or if you have kids or grandkids on your list, check into the art classes for various ages, including the new “Art & Journaling” class and the “Downtown Mural Project for Middle & High School Students.”

Gift certificates are available at the OSU Extension Service, 4506 Third Street or you can register the recipient online – for adults: or for youth: Your gift will provide memories for the gift recipient strengthen your connection to the gift recipient and have positive health benefits for the recipient.
Do you have other ideas for local experience gifts? Please share them in the comments so we can increase the number of people who give and receive experiences rather than material goods this holiday season.
Molinger & Chan. (2015). The Science of Gifting: How to Pick a Better Present. Knowledge@Wharton., Killingsworth & Gilovich. (2014). Waiting for Merlot – Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological Science. & Nobel (2011). The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health: A Review of the Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health. Extension, Your Connection to the Programs, People, and Publications from OSU Extension Tillamook County

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