Giving Experiences Instead of Stuff

This has always been my philosophy as a parent, and I ran across an excellent article about this over at Ohdeedoh. It's hard to go against the urge to buy things for my child, but I'm working on it! This has benefits in reducing clutter, keeping kids from always wanting new stuff, and providing lifelong memories.

By now, the phrase "In these challenging economic times" has become overused, but if there is one benefit of the current financial downturn, it's the chance to re-evaluate priorities.  For example:
  • I never intended to live in a small condo with kids, much less multiple kids. And yet, here we are. Buying a home was an excellent decision at the time, to stop the drain of money spent on rent. Though our home value has gone down substantially, we still haven't "lost" more than the amount we would have spent on rent in the last 6+ years. But we can't sell it and make enough to buy a house. SO, I have to figure out how to make this space work for us, possibly for years into the future. And really, who needs a big home? People all over the world, even wealthy urban dwellers, live in spaces smaller than ours. Sure, I want a big home, but should having one really be my goal in life?
  • I lost my job two months ago, and was abruptly launched into a freelance career. The large decrease in income forced us to inspect every area of our budget. We have less income than we did before, so there's less buying of things than before.  This is not a bad thing. We, like many Americans, had developed bad habits of buying new things we didn't really need, filling landfills with things that were still functional, etc. We simply don't need new stuff.
  • It's healthier to eat at home anyway, but we'd been in the habit of eating in restaurants. No more! And imagine that...we're actually eating more variety and expanding our cooking repertoire. 
So, on to the topic of experiences vs. things for kids. I have many more memories of trips with my family than I do of playing with specific toys. I had a few favorites, to be sure, but for the most part I remember spring break trips on the Amtrak train and summers spent at the neighborhood pool.

Memberships can be a great value.  In our area, we are fortunate to have access to great museums and all sorts of fun and educational places.  With small children, many of these places aren't ideal, but we became members of a nearby children's museum, and during the cold winter months, the place was almost an extension of our living room, our family visited so often.  In the summer, it's our pool pass that we love. And year-round, we spend time at the YMCA.

The journey can be the destination.  We're not quite close enough to big-city attractions to go every day, but a carefully planned trip downtown can be memorable for all of us. (See my previous post on heading to downtown Chicago with a 2-year-old.) Our little guy loves riding the train and the bus. If we want to be home by naptime, one of these trips starts early and most of our time is spent getting to and from. But there are so many things to see while riding public transit (or driving down a new road, for that matter).

We went to the Chicago Children's Museum on a free-admission day, and had a blast!

A cheap vacation can be the best vacation.  We have a nearby family lake cottage that we can use almost any time during the summer. We plan meals and buy groceries ahead of time (or on the way there), and sit on the beach. Or wander around some small towns. Or ride bikes. As I discovered during my own childhood, repeated trips to the same place can create very strong memories. And because we're not traveling on a plane, and we've been there before, the preparation is pretty easy each time we go.  It's possible to feel relaxed after just a day or two.

Enlist the grandparents to get in on the action.  Whether grandparents are visiting us, or we are visiting them, I like to get out and about whenever possible. In December, we went out to look at Christmas lights. Last summer, we went to the zoo in Grandma and Grandpa's hometown, and our toddler got to feed a giraffe. He still talks about that, 9 months later! I love that there are things we can only do while visiting Grandma.

Give a gift of a membership or an experience to someone in your family. Focus on experiences instead of gifts when thinking about your family budget. You won't regret it!

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP