5 Reasons Why Experiences Are the Best Kind of Gifts

An Intangible GiftAn Intangible GiftBy Robin Hilmantel for HowAboutWe

Don't know what to get for your better half this holiday season? The solution is simple: Give them an experience rather than something they could potentially stash in the back of their closet. "People often have a hard time allocating money to experiences and activities because it can feel like you'll have nothing to show for it afterward," says Dr. Jane Greer, a relationship counselor and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship. "But it's a great way to show your partner you care and that you're supporting them in their efforts to do what they enjoy most." Not convinced? Check out five reasons you should give a no-wrapping-paper-required gift this year (and then check out these 5 ideas for great dates to give).

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1 Science says they'll like it. A bunch of research shows that shelling out your hard-earned cash on experiences makes people happier than spending it on material objects. "When you give someone something physical, they can get tired of it or want something new to replace it," Greer says. "Memories are irreplaceable, though, and only get better with time." Two recent studies confirm that the hefty price tag on a new watch or cashmere sweater isn't worth your Alexander Hamiltons. They even suggest that people who prefer experiential purchases are perceived as more extroverted, adventurous, and charismatic than the people who do their shopping in a mall. So you'll make your better half happier and come off as cooler if you give them a date for the holidays.

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2 Science says your bond will benefit, too. Want to make sure your relationship still feels new and exciting-even years in? The trick is to keep doing new and exciting things with your boyfriend or girlfriend, according to research. "Sharing new experiences is a way to grow with each other, keep the spark alive, and freshen things up in the relationship," Greer says. Sounds simple, but it's easy to let life's craziness get in the way. So why not use the holidays as an excuse to ditch your standing date with your boyfriend or girlfriend, the couch, and a stack of Breaking Bad DVDs and try something new instead?

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3 It works whether you've been on five dates or five hundred. You've only been out a few times, but you want to get them something to show that you're really into the relationship so far. Gifting someone a date is the perfect choice: One (or both) of you would have paid for the next date anyway, but this gives you the opportunity to do something a little out of the ordinary and more indulgent than normal. If you've been together forever, the experiential gift is still appropriate: Just scale up the price tag and pick something that feels truly special.

Plus: The Ultimate Holiday Dating & Relationships Survival Guide

4 It super easy-but doesn't look lazy. You just found a gift on Etsy that would be perfect-except for the whole fact that it won't arrive for three weeks. And at this point it's slim pickings at the mall. No need to panic-the experiential gift will save your ass: It comes off as super thoughtful (especially if you splurge on something that you know your significant other's been wanting to do). But you can still buy it at the last minute, often while lying in bed and wearing pajamas.

5 You'll enjoy it, too. At the risk of stating the obvious, we feel the need to point out that you'll benefit way more from giving them tickets to a concert than you will from giving them a bottle of cologne or perfume. One big caveat here: If you give an experiential gift that you two likely would have done regardless - or one that you'll clearly enjoy more than they will - then it stops feeling like a gift at all. "If you both are Mets fans, you don't want to give them tickets to a Mets game that you would have gone to anyway," Greer says. "Then it doesn't feel special."

Robin Hilmantel is a writer and editor living in Manhattan who loves both giving and receiving experiential gifts.