You don’t have to subject yourself to a packed shopping mall this holiday season — even if you’ve left your Christmas shopping to the last minute (again).
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one to do so.
A nation of procrastinators
The majority of Canadians have put off their purchases, according to a recent Angus Reid survey. Those between the ages of 18 and 34 are apparently the worst offenders.
Our last-minute tendencies make Dec. 23 the busiest shopping day of the year. That means big crowds.
Another reason to steer clear of the malls: Dec. 23 (and the days preceding it) is also a peak time for car crashes. The top spots for collisions? Shopping malls.
Experts say it’s better to think outside the box when it comes to your holiday purchases.
Give experiences, not things
Psychology professor Tom Gilovich of Cornell University has spent more than 12 years studying thousands of people and the kinds of gifts they prefer.
“People really like it when you can give them material things,” he said of his findings.
“But there’s some suggestive evidence that…people like it even more if you give them a gratifying experience.”
A study conducted by Travelzoo in November backs that up. It found that 85 per cent of Canadians prefer to receive experiences (like theater tickets or a weekend getaway) over physical gifts (like clothing or tools).
When given specific gift options, these are the choices that won out:
- 87% prefer a spa day at a top-rated spa over a luxury perfume or cologne set
- 81% prefer to receive dinner for two at a 4-star restaurant over a high-end mixer
- 72% prefer a dream vacation over an equally-priced shopping spree
The happiness that an experiential gift can bring is also more likely to be longer-lasting, Gilovich’s research has found.
There’s a simple thought experiment Gilovich has used to demonstrate this. He asks his test subjects to think of the three best things and experiences they’ve ever purchased. Then he asks them to tell him about themselves.
“People take their most significant experiences and embed them in their narratives much more than their material goods,” he said.
“Ultimately, we are the sum total of our experiences.”
Gilovich explained that we feel more connected with our loved ones when we share an experience with them.
Material goods, meanwhile, make us more likely to fall into the “Keeping up with the Joneses” trap.
“We tend to evaluate our experiences for what they are,” Gilovich said, “whereas material goods are … evaluated for how they stack up with the possessions other people have.”
WATCH: Buy experiences, not things to be happy
Suggestions for gifts that will make an impact
The added perk of giving an experiential gift is that it’s often something you can also enjoy.
Cooking and/or dance classes can be a fun (and beneficial) activity for you to do with a friend or significant other.
Or perhaps there’s something your loved one has talked about doing — like learning a language, taking an impov or stand-up class, or getting a scuba diving certification — but hasn’t taken the plunge.
- Tickets to a show
Whether it’s a concert, play or musical, this is another present perfect for two.
- A trip
From a romantic getaway to a girls’ trip, the pictures alone that come from the gift of travel ensure it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten.
- Something homemade
- Your time
It might sound cheesy, but sometimes the best things in life really are free. Something as simple as taking your family tobogganing is sure to be a hit.
With files from The Canadian Press and Patrick Cain, Global News