Theresa Clancy, Attorney at Law (708)819-1580

When I asked my kids for ideas of what to buy them for a Christmas gift this past year, they said they wanted an experiential gift. Not surprisingly, this was also the type of gift they gave. So, last Christmas our family gave and received many interesting gifts. There was a helicopter ride, 360 yoga in the sky, pottery classes, Dining in the Dark, Candlelight Concerts, Cirque du Soleil tickets, Second City tickets, woodworking lessons, dance lessons, music lessons, and sailing lessons.

Sure, experiential gift giving is not new. Plenty of tickets to a show or dinner gift cards have been given as gifts. However, in the past, a gift card was a default gift given when you could not think of something original. Nowadays, at least for younger people, an experiential gift is the original gift not the default gift and it has been taken to an all-new level.

There are whole companies devoted to selling experiences. A 2018 study found 63% of U.S. adults would prefer an experience to a material gift. A 2021 study found that percentage has now jumped to 71%. So, I was curious, how did we get here?

It all started back in the late 1990s. Goods and services were starting to lose consumers’ attention. Economists saw an emerging 4th economic offering to the three existing economies of commodities, goods, and services. Enter the experience economy. In the experience economy a company uses goods and services to create a memorable event or experience for the customer. This experience is inherently personal, engaging the consumer on an emotional, physical, intellectual, or even spiritual level.

The experience economy has emerged for several reasons. Social media use, a new idea of happiness, a belief in minimalism, and renewed family interest are among those reasons.

For better or worse social media has encouraged (or compelled) consumers to show the world they have an exciting, interesting life. Experiential gifting capitalizes on this encouragement. Giving a friend an experience you do together provides content for both of your social media accounts.

People are also taking a more holistic perspective on what leads to happiness. We are shunning materialism for good reason. One study found that satisfaction in a purchase of material goods diminishes quickly but satisfaction of an experience often increases over time.

Americans are also embracing minimalism. Whether for environmental reasons or a growing lack of materialism, we are just not as interested in stuff as we used to be.

Post pandemic shut down, we want to spend more time with family and friends while doing something more than just a living room visit. Experiential gifts bring us together and get us out of the house.

Gifts of experiences are not just more fun; they are better for us than material gifts. One 2017 study found that experiential gifts produce greater improvements in relationship strength than material gifts – regardless of whether the gift giver and recipient consume the gift together. Those relationship improvements stem from the intensity of emotion that is evoked when we consume the gifts rather than when the gifts are received.

So, consider making your next gift an experiential gift. It may be just as beneficial for you to give this gift as it is for your friend/family to receive it. Like experiential gift giving, estate planning is as beneficial for you as it is for your family/friends. You feel relief because you have set up things correctly and your family feels gratitude that their burden in handling your affairs is reduced.

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