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Experiences Over Things

How to value experiences over things and taking a step towards unlocking the key to happiness.

I sometimes cringe at all the items that people buy as gifts. It may be because I picture these items in a landfill in the not-so-distant future.

A son hugging his dad

I get it. People want to give gifts as a way to show they care.

I do this too, from time to time. It’s a nice gesture. The idea that I took time out of my busy day to go search for a gift that I think would be perfect for that special somebody is hard. And I don’t just do that for anyone. So that in itself shows how much I must care.

But does that person need that new item? Most times, no. Most time, that person already has everything and doesn’t need an extra thing lying around their already crowded home. But we can’t just do nothing.

There are experiences we can organize to show we care without spending our hard-earned money on something that will end up in the trash a couple of years later.

It starts with a simple motto — experiences over things.

This motto isn’t just a millennial trend, either. It’s a global movement. Many Baby Boomers are adopting a less is more mentality as they enter retirement.

It’s because spending money on experiences gives people long-term joy, compared to spending money on tangible things.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been studying the relationship between money and happiness for more than 20 years.

He discovered that lasting happiness does not come from buying things.

Gilovich explains: “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

We've all experienced this. A few days after receiving a lot of birthday gifts, we struggle to remember what we got.

Gilovich continues to explain: “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

So, Where Do We Go From Here?

We have ideas of experiences that you can organize instead of buying a gift.


A couple watch a vidday on their tablet

Make a Video Montage

Use VidDay to collaborate with friends and family on a video montage as a surprise gift.

Yes, obviously, we recommend this one. Giving people an easy-to-do zero waste gift option is one of the main motivations why we started VidDay in the first place. We believe that the whole point of celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements (or any other special occasion) is about being with the people we cherish most. And we realize that it's hard to celebrate together when everyone leads a busy life or lives in different cities.

We want people to stop writing shallow happy birthday messages on Facebook or by text message. Instead, we want people to receive a video made especially for them, from all the people who they love. It's a thousand percent more genuine, and it may be the reason why people often cry tears of joy when they receive their VidDay video montage. It's about the people in our lives, not the things in our lives.

Getting started is easy; all you need to do is click here. Then, you invite people to submit video messages, and we make the video montage for you.

Need more inspiration? Check out VidDay's Ultimate Guide to Getting Started.


friends jamming out in their car

Go On a Trip Together

The best way to connect with someone is to travel with them. Get out of your comfort zone and do some exploring together. It could be a big trip or a short trip. Whether you're flying to some new part of the world or driving a couple of hours away, it's a fun and exciting experience that could create lasting memories.

You can even make it even more exciting by adding mystery to the trip. Don't tell your friend or loved one where they're going. Make them a packing list that will act as clues as to where they're going, but keep it a surprise until you get there.

A road trip conversation starter

To help pass the time while traveling, we made a printable card of road trip conversation starters that you can use to get to know each other better.


friends drinking beer together

Plan a Pub Crawl

Don't want to travel far? Stay close to home and organize a pub crawl. Stumbling from pub to pub is a fun way to bond together.

There are a few things to keep in mind when organizing a pub crawl.

The first thing is choosing the type of drinks. If you're under 30, this doesn't concern you. But for everyone else, choosing your poison and sticking to it can make a big difference the next morning. So decide as a group if it'll be beer, wine, whiskey, or cocktails.

Next, map out ahead of time all the bars you plan on visiting. You can make a schedule if you'd like, but it's best to keep it flexible as who knows how the night may shake out.

Last but not least, plan out transportation. If the pubs you plan on visiting are not within walking distance, you need to make sure there is public transportation or book an Uber ahead of time. Don't forget to eat some food and keep it fun.

bingo pub crawl for vidday

Here's a printable pub crawl bingo card to add some extra entertainment to your night. One thing's for sure, it'll be a great experience, but it may not create lasting memories.


inside look of a brewery

Organize a Distillery Tour

If the possible mayhem of pub crawls is not your thing, try a distillery tour. Find out if your friend or loved one has a favorite brand and see if there's a distillery nearby.

Expand your knowledge together and discover how they make their brew. Enjoy tasty flights, all while learning the history of the brewery.

This experience is a sure way to boost anyone's spirit.


a stamp saying escape game

Book an Escape Room

If the escape of alcohol is not your thing, then an escape room might be more up your alley—what a great way to celebrate someone by being trapped with them in a room.

An escape room is a real-life adventure game. Rally friends and family that are willing to be trapped in a themed room for 60 minutes to solve a series of challenging puzzles.

You'll need to carefully look in every nook and cranny of the room to find various strings of numbers and keys to unlock all sorts of different locks. Everywhere you look, a potential clue or riddle is waiting to be solved.

The pressure of the clock ticking while solving puzzles is a great way to get to know someone.

escape room tips and tricks

Here's a list of escape room tips and tricks to set up your team for success.


friend and family celebrating a birthday dinner

Host a Dinner

It doesn't get better than this. If a gesture of love and appreciation is what you're after, then cook them their favorite meal.

It takes careful preparation and time to host a dinner. That shows you must care, but caring that much can cause you stress. Here are some tips to help take the stress out of your day. Start by deciding who you're going to invite. You don't want an overcrowded house, and you want to make sure you have enough food. When inviting guests, remember that it's about your friend or loved one, so think about who they would like to see.

Is it a surprise? If so, this takes more planning. You'll need to make sure that they're not around while you prep the house for dinner. You'll also need to make sure that they don't make other plans, so try and come up with a fake event that will keep their day booked. Make sure you have plenty of beverages to go around. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic to be completely inclusive. It's a great idea to mix a unique cocktail and name it after the person you're celebrating.

Create the right vibe. Choose a theme and decorate the house to make the dinner party feel like a special occasion. Mix a complementary playlist that you can play to set the mood. It'll make the whole event that much more memorable.

Remember that hosting a dinner is stressful, and things don't always go as plan. So go easy on yourself and remember that the point is about being together. That's what makes the dinner special.

dinner party ice breaker questions

Whether you need an icebreaker at the dinner table or not, this printable icebreaker card is sure to add more fun to your evening.


a couple in robes at a spa

Enjoy a Relaxing Spa Day

A spa day may seem like a no-brainer, but it may be precisely what the brain needs. Take a day together to relax the mind, body, and soul. You may be together often, but you may not always be present.

A spa day can be an opportunity to create an experience where you reconnect with your friend or loved one. A day of relaxation will leave you two walking out there, blissed out and feeling fantastic.

That may be the experience most needed for those who lead a busy lifestyle.


friends playing jenga together

Set Up a Game Night

And finally, one of my favorite types of nights, game night! Organize a night where you and a group of friends and family play a variety of games.

They can be board games, card games, strategy games, you name it. So long as they're all games that the one you're celebrating wants to play. But just because it's their night doesn't mean you need to let them win.

Make sure you have a variety of snacks and drinks. I'm talking about chips, dips, fruits, veggies, cheeses, popcorn, pretzels, candy, fruit punch, soda, heck, even a fondue if you're up for it. And just like hosting a dinner party, it's a good idea to find a playlist as background music to set the right vibe.


There you have it, eight memorable experiences.

Let these ideas spark your creativity and allow you to think of more experiences that your friend or loved one would value more than a tangible item. I hope that you are opt-in to creating lasting memories instead of buying things you think that person may want.

Remember, if you're going to take a step towards happiness, start by choosing experiences over things.




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