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Just ask the mom who has stepped on one too many Lego blocks. Or the architect who doesn’t have the space to store even one more coffee mug. Or the teacher who has received far too many of the same apple-themed gifts through the years.

Sometimes it’s not just the thought that counts. It’s the experience.

It’s something psychologists continue to find support for in research and it, quite honestly, makes a lot of sense: experiences are worth more to people in the long-term than things.

This is a particularly timely topic given the hustle and bustle of Cyber Monday, but it rings true year-round. So how do we find ways to spend time with our loved ones this holiday season? How do we prioritize our daily lives to value experience over material purchases?

Here are a few ideas that don’t cost much (if anything at all):

Here are a few ideas that don’t cost much (if anything at all):

  1. Schedule time to unplug. The average Smartphone user picks up his or her phone more times a day than any of us want to admit. Toddlers can operate tablets and other devices at a startlingly young age. It’s normal for families to have TVs in several rooms of the house. Technology is everywhere, and with it is a constant distraction. Scheduling some time each day to unplug from everything can restore relationships, spark real conversations and foster the creation of memories much more valuable than that game of Candy Crush.
  2. Complete a seasonal bucket list. From experimenting with a beloved family recipe to driving around looking at Christmas lights, ideas abound for fun and inexpensive ways to enjoy whatever season it may be. Take the kids fishing in the spring, build a snowman (or three) in the winter, volunteer in the fall, and go camping under the stars in the summer. Whatever your list may contain, check the items off with your loved ones.
  3. Find ways to volunteer in the community. Make a few calls or search around on social media to find out about a local cause you can support somehow. Whether you donate money or time, work together with your family to choose the cause. Spend time talking about why your contributions matter and how even the smallest effort makes a big difference in the lives of others.
  4. Give experiences instead of gifts. If you must spend money, do it wisely. Whether you’re shopping for the perfect birthday gift or a Christmas present for your great aunt who has everything: your answer is much more simple than you think. Experiences matter regardless of a person’s age – they keep our minds active and engage us as a family unit. Great ideas for kids include an annual membership to a local children’s museum or nearby zoo. Or give the gift of an annual art museum or public museum membership to the hard-to-buy-for person on your list. The point is, you’re encouraging the recipient to enjoy an experience instead of gifting them something that may hang forgotten in a spare bedroom closet.

The point is the same regardless of the reason for giving: if at all possible, give a gift worth more than most things: time. Time together. Time exploring. Time being present is sometimes the best gift of all.