Dec 14, 2015 by

According the website Nerdwallet, it takes the average middle-class American household three months to pay off their holiday gift-buying expenses. Unfortunately these arrears, taken on in the spirit of generosity, are often taken on for naught. Research shows that many, if not most, of our gifts are undervalued and/or disliked by the people we give them to. Not to be too humbuggy, but I suspect the average gift probably has a 50% chance of being well received and/or used (I’m assuming this is a gift that wasn’t specifically requested by the receiver). Would you buy stock in a company where there was a 50% chance the stock would be worth nothing within weeks of buying it? Probably not.

With all this in mind, it’s a good time to suggest some stuff-free gift alternatives–“things” that are almost sure to be used and enjoyed and will not (and cannot) be tossed or given away moments after they are received.

  • Don’t get “stuff.” There are many ways of giving gifts that require no extra storage. Buying experiences–theater or movie tickets, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc–have actually been shown to have a higher likelihood of being well received than stuff like electronics or blenders.
  • Give a service. Back in the day, you might have given someone a CD, DVD or some other durable good. In their place, buy a subscription or gift certificate to Spotify, Netflx or maybe Airbnb.
  • Give a membership: Museums, zoos, performance spaces, etc. What’s great about this gift is that people end up going to these institutions frequently when they might not have gone at all without a membership.
  • Give food or drink. When doing this one, it helps to have some notion of the recipient’s gastronomic leanings (does he/she like stinky cheese, coffee or tea, bourbon or wheat grass), but food is infinitely consumable and appreciated by most.
  • Give time. We still love the “One Less Gift Certificate” devised by Miss Minimalist. In an age or material abundance, time and attention are far more precious commodities than money or anything you can buy at a store or order on Amazon.

How are you prepping for the holiday season? Let us know in our comments section.

A version of this post originally published November 26, 2014.

Let’s go shopping image via Shutterstock

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