Experience Christmas presents and kits so that you can gift memories to your loved ones − something that will last long after a normal gift breaks down.

Research suggests − along with real life experiences we've all had − that experiences and the resulting memories last much longer than the latest gadget, the newest toy, or the glitz and glossiness of wrapped presents.kid with large Santa's red bag he can't carry, text overlay "19 experience Christmas presents you can actually afford"

Study author Ryan Howell, from San Francisco State University, introduced this concept when he presented his findings at the 2009 annual meeting of Society for Personality and Social Psychology. One of his conclusions is the importance of “memory capital”, or the idea that you might get bored with a new item after six months or so, but having an experience to remember and think about will bring repeated happiness over a lifetime.

So, building off of all this great research, let me help you gift experiences instead of gifts this year.

Experience Christmas Presents (You Can Actually Afford)

An experience Christmas present is one that creates an experience for the gift recipient. An experience can be an event, an occurrence, a moment — it allows them to be active and participate in something.

Sounds wayyyy cooler than buying another pen for someone, right?

The only problem is, lots of experience gifts cost a small fortune. Top 10 experience gift lists include things like scuba-diving, piloting an airplane, skydiving, travel, and all sorts of things that, even though they are completely awesome, can leave you with a holiday hangover to pay off for the next six months.

So, today I want to give you tons of experience Christmas gift ideas and experience kit ideas that will still create that experience for your loved one, but without the huge price tag.

Experiences & the resulting memories last longer than the latest gadget, newest toy, or wrapped presents. Click To Tweet

Here are some experience Christmas presents ideas, by the type of person on your list.

Experience Gift Ideas for Her

How can you gift an experience for the woman/girl/mother in your life?

Let these experience gift ideas for her help you out.

Experience Kit #1: Chocolate Taste Testing

Download and print (on durable paper) the Dating Diva's free chocolate tasting printable. Then, go to your grocery store's gourmet chocolate section and pick out 4-5 bars of all different kinds of chocolate.

Here's some great chocolate bars we've personally used with our own chocolate tasting night:

Experience Gift #2: Craft Store Class

Check out Michaels.com and Joann.com for local craft store classes you can gift to the woman in your life.

For example, at our local Michael's store, I found a Frida Kahlo Pet Painting class, and a basic jewelry making and assembly class, both for $25 each.

screenshot of Michael's craft store classes and events section

Joann's store has all kinds of classes, as well!

screenshot of Joann Fabric's classes and events section

Experience Gift #3: Wine Tasting Road Trip Kit

Set up a wine-tasting tour, complete with a map outlining all the little-known places to taste wine around where your gift recipient lives, and then also a wine tasting journal they can write in.

When thinking of places to look for wine tastings, look past local vineyards and wineries.

Don't forget:

  • High-end grocery stores
  • Art exhibits that pair-up with wine tastings
  • etc.

Other things you can add to this kit?

  • Gas gift card so they can get around to all these wine tastings
  • Road map with little sticker dots at each destination

Experience Gift #4: Empowering Questions Therapy Cards

Anyone can go through this deck of Empower Questions therapy cards to learn so much more about themselves.

Experience Gifts Ideas for Him

Tired of gifting ties, pens, and beer accessories?

Here are some great experience gift ideas for the men in your life.

Pssst: you'll want to check out my 151+ stocking stuffers for men, all $10 or less.

Experience Kit #1: Hot Sauce Tasting Kit

My husband's side of the family is obsessed with all things spicy. I've got a bit of an aversion to spiciness (though my taste buds have been stretched to “medium” salsa now that I've lived in Texas for the past 8 years).

Inspired by their spicy taste-testing events, I thought it'd be fun to set this up for someone else. Include a printout like this one that details all the different kinds of peppers used in hot sauces. You could also include a list of helpful foods to cut the spiciness they'll feel during the tasting event and name it “Hot Sauce Chasers.”

Include recipes with hot sauce as an ingredient, such as these Chicken Fire Poppers and Buffalo Cauliflower Bites.

And of course…include actual hot sauce! Find a hot sauce store, go to the hot sauce section of your grocery store, or visit the food aisle of places like Marshall's. Miniature bottles are best as you can then afford to include 4-5 for their taste event.

Bonus coolness? Bottle up your own homemade hot sauces (my husband makes them from his mother's peppers!).

Experience Gift #2: Tickets to a Chili Cook-Off

We live in Texas, so it's not hard to find chili cook-offs to go to. Can you find a local chili cook-off, and either buy tickets for the man in your life, OR, print them up a cute coupon that says “good for” the chili cook-off tickets for when they come out?

Experience Kit #3: Fire Kit

Does your guy (like my husband) love fires?

My husband just loves to build fires in our fireplace or our fire pit, and I'm creating this experience kit with him in mind.

Here's what you'll want to include for a fun, and unique, fire experience:

  • Fire Starter Necklace: This is a cool piece of survival gear that can help them make their fires at home (or in the backyard), as well!
  • Fire Color Changer: Don't tell my husband, but I snagged him a set of this fire colorant. He's going to love it (not to mention, our son will as well)!
  • Print outs of several awesome, manly, recipes they can make over a fire, like any of the foil packet campfire recipes here.

Experience Gift Ideas for Couples

What are good couples gifts for Christmas? Ones that help them engage with one another, get to know each other better, and/or laugh (snort-worthy ones are the best!).

Experience Kit #1: Date Night in a Box

You may have heard of date night subscription boxes…but did you know that many of those companies allow you to purchase just one box at a time?

Here are some cool couple's date night boxes for you:

  • Crated with Love: These one-time boxes include themes like The Honolulu Heist Date Box, Our Vegas Variety Show Date Night, and a Zombie Apocalypse Date Night. (Hint: go through my link, then scroll all the way to the bottom of the site and in the footer you'll see a link to “One-Time Boxes”).
  • Date Night In: You can just choose one box for yourself or to gift to a couple.

Experience Kit #2: Italian Food Night Kit

Set the stage for a romantic evening of cooking an Italian dinner together. In this kit you can include a CD of Italian music, a jar of gourmet pasta sauce, and a bag of gourmet pasta (hint: check the food areas of stores like Marshall's and Ross for some imported specialty items). Include a packet or small mason jar of a dipping oil seasoning mixture for bread, and add a little note card with directions for how much to measure out and how much olive oil to add.

And if you're feeling particularly saucy? Make them a bottle of homemade limoncello.

Experience Kit # 3: Escape Room in a Box

Create a really fun date night for your couple friend with this Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment.

A mad scientist is on the loose, and you’ve got to solve 19 puzzles together or else…you turn into werewolves (that mad scientist sounds cranky! He probably just couldn’t get his kids to sleep…).

Did I mention, you have just one hour to accomplish this? No setup required! (If your friends have Alexa, they can sync it up and Alexa will actually host their game to make it feel like they're in a real Escape Room).

Experience Kit #4: Babysitting Coupon

Okay…I'm sure this is because we have a 3-year-old, but I'm here to tell you that if you gift a couple a free night of babysitting? They will loooovvvveeee you for it.

Think about it — they can then go out and experience something together!

When my husband and I have been gifted a free night/day of babysitting, we've:

  • Toured one of the most gorgeous Hindu temples together (that happened to be just 14 minutes from where we used to live in Houston)
  • Went to a Holi festival together
  • Put on our cowboy boots and hunt out at the rodeo
  • etc.

And every single one of those nights/days was an experience we'll never forget.

Experience Gift #5: Couple's Truth or Dare Decks

I consider giving a couple a deck of truth or dare cards (or a deck of conversation starters) an experience gift because it will definitely engage the two of them and make things…exciting!

Here's a few to consider:

Experience Gift Ideas for Kids (and Families)

I'm a Mama, and I definitely prefer experience gifts for kids — ones that will engage them, make them think, and get them learning in a new environment — over more toys.

Psst: Since I also teach kids about money? You might want to check out these interactive, money toys for kids

Experience Kit #1: Snowman Kit

Do you live in a cold climate? Set up the experience of building a snowman by putting together a Snowman Kit. There are several variations of this going around Pinterest, so pick and choose what you'd like to include. This particular kit includes free, snazzy tags you can print out to dress up whatever you decide to put together.

And for those of us living where there's a better chance of getting trampled by one of Santa's reindeers on the way to the grocery store than seeing real snow? Check out cute Snowman play dough kits like this one.

Experience Kit #2: Geocache Kit

Have you heard of Geocaching? It's an outdoor treasure-hunting game using GPS devices. You find your way to the coordinate points to find the hidden geocache (or “cache”, a container with something secret in it). And these are located all around the world!

It's a great activity to get families, couples, and individuals out in nature on the hunt for something.

Create a geocache kit that includes a printout of the rules, a printout for how to get started, a compass (you don't need one to find it, but would make it more interactive for the little ones), a pencil, and a notebook. You could also include things like a water bottle, bug spray (or bug spray wipes), and anything else someone might need to go out in nature.

Bonus: you could include a listing of some of your favorite geocache sites, plus their coordinates.

Experience Kit #3: Factory Tour Kit

Is there a food factory tour located near the kids and family you'd like to give gifts to?

Load up a basket or bag with that company's products, and then in the card, tell them that you'll be taking them to the factory tour.

You can find all the factory tours across the U.S. here.

Let me give you an example:

  • The Herr's factory is near where I grew up. So, if I was gifting this to my sister's kids, I'd get them excited by buying packages of Herr's potato chips in several varieties (sour cream and onion — the best sour cream chips you'll ever taste — barbecue, and maybe something a bit more wacky, like Old Bay) and putting them into a gift bag. Then, in the card, I'd let them know their aunt would be taking them on the Herr's Factory tour in the next year!

Experience Gift #5: Annual Family National Parks Pass

The reason I include the annual family national parks pass in this “affordable” roundup of experience gift ideas is because, even at $80, if you normally buy a gift for each person in a large family, buying this instead could cost you less.

Really, the ideas are endless. Do you have some of your own you can share with me below?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
4 replies
  1. Avery Breyer
    Avery Breyer says:

    I LOVE this idea. I grew up in a family of knick knack collectors, and when I got married and moved out on my own, I was the odd one who liked a more minimalist decor haha

    Anyhow, personally, I find having too many things just creates more work – you’ve got to dust them, move them around to dust around them, if you move to a new place you have to pack them all up and it takes FOREVER.

    Experiences are great though – as you say, you remember them forever. Looking back over fun experiences brings happiness in a way that things generally don’t.

    Reply
  2. Michelle Crouch
    Michelle Crouch says:

    Hi Amanda,
    These are great ideas! I am a writer too, and I’m actually trying to get in touch with you for a story I’m writing on whether to delay getting married if you have debt. I’d love to interview you! Please let me know if you are up for it. My deadline is Friday. Thanks!

    Reply

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