11/25/2013 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Buy Experiences, Not Stuff This Holiday Season

The frenzy of the shopping season kicks off this week, with up to 140 million people shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend from Thursday through Sunday, according to Forbes. The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is the Olympics of shopping, with an estimated 55 percent of Americans hitting the malls.

So how much are they spending? "Dollar amount spending this holiday season appears consistent with last year, as 30 percent of consumers from all income ranges say they plan to drop between $250 and $500," the Nielsen Newswire reports, under a headline that reads "Tis the Season to Be Fiscally Cautious." "Twenty percent say they'll spend between $500 and $1,000, while only 6 percent will open their wallets wide enough to spend more than $1,000." Gift cards, tech products and toys are topping the list but "Consumers also say they are planning on spending more this year on food, clothing, video games and cookware."

No matter how much or how little you're planning to spend this year, I'm urging you to buy experiences rather than things. As I wrote in my book, Upgrade, most of us have more possessions than we need or want anyway.


Our garages are jam-packed with stuff, and our basements and closets are filled with unnecessary things that we continue to clutter our lives with. Open your closet or walk down to your basement if you have one and take a look at all the things you've acquired. DVD players, air hockey machines, wires, electronics, crates, and crates of toys, old new clothes, which you purchased months ago but the tags are still on. Things we think we'll need on a rainy day, when we throw a party or some "what if?" happens. We enslave ourselves to consumerism; we can't help it.

I wised up one year after exhausting myself at the malls during the holidays dealing with traffic, lines, and congestion, the mobs of people like me running around frantically trying to purchase dozens of perfect gifts for family and friends. When I finally returned home with my 10 bags of stuff and sat down to wrap everything individually, I thought, how are these purchases going to enhance my loved ones' lives? They were not going to do that, I realized. After they rip off the wrappings, they're going to put them away in their full closets and basements, where they will sit unused with the pile of other stuff. So, I concluded, from here on out, I am never purchasing another thing: no Abercrombie & Fitch sweaters, no J Crew moccasins, no pajama sets from Target, or fancy ties from Saks, no trendy Skull Candy headphones, lotion kits from Sephora, and the like. Just no more stuff!

I am buying them experiences: tickets to the basketball game, the baseball game, the opera, the ballet, a concert, an event, the science center, an airline ticket, or even a dinner gift card. I am going to spend that money on fun things that friends and family and I can enjoy together. We need to place more value on experiences than on things. At the end of our lives, we treasure our memories more than our things.

Here are some experiences you can buy your loved ones that will give you both enjoyment and fond memories.

Holiday Shopping? Buy Experiences!