The Secret To Experience Gifts, Valentine’s Day Edition

Valentine’s day is tomorrow. Of course you knew that, since it’s been promoted in every store you’ve visited since about 12:01 AM on December 26th. Depending on who you are you’ve already bought a gift for someone, don’t plan to buy a gift for someone, or were just reminded (by that first sentence) that you need to buy a gift for someone. If you’re in the third camp, hang out for five minutes and read this post – it might help you with a gift idea!

The “official” minimalist position seems to be “give experience gifts”. By “experience gifts” of course we’re talking about dinner at a restaurant, tickets to a good movie, play, or concert, a gift certificate to a spa of some sort, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.

That being said, gifts also need to be responsive to the other person’s desires. If somebody hates movies, plays, concerts, and getting their hair done, a box of their favorite chocolate may not be an experience – but it will give them more happiness than the alternatives.

If we want to give truly great gifts though, there’s only one thing we really need to know:

The gift needs to create a memory.

That’s it. That’s the sum total of great gift giving. If you give your wife a teddy bear for Valentine’s Day, odds are it’ll be forgotten. If you dress up as a teddy bear and sing her Elvis songs (including, obviously, “Teddy Bear”), the odds of her forgetting that anytime soon will be relatively minimal. That is, unless you do that sort of thing all the time – in which case maybe a box of chocolates would be a welcome surprise!

All kidding aside, think about the holidays, birthdays, and other occasions that you really remember. Why do you remember them? In almost every case, I’m betting you can identify something unique or different about that event that triggers your memory.

Two Stories

I have two stories to illustrate – one positive, one negative.

On the negative side, when I was thirteen, sometime around Valentine’s Day, I forgot my girlfriend’s name. No, I’m not kidding, and yes, I remember the building I was in, why we were there, where I was standing, and the name of the other person involved in the conversation. I also remember attempting to surreptitiously get that other person to address my girlfriend by name. They did, and I was rescued.

On the positive side, we have a story about flowers. I don’t like giving flowers, because they’re very expensive, and they don’t last very long. When my wife and I were dating, she’d told me that her favorite flower was the calla lily. I was reading a local email list one day, and a lady had calla lilies for sale. Fake calla lilies, to be exact – the kind they sell at craft stores. She had dozens of them, and she wanted them out of her house.

So I presented my wife with a huge bouquet of 30+ fake calla lilies. She thought it was awesome, and we still have some of them decorating the living room today.

One Common Theme

I didn’t particularly enjoy forgetting my girlfriend’s name. The calla lily thing was awesome. But positive or negative, they have a common thread – they each have an element where something out of the ordinary happened.

That’s what we’re trying to create when we give a gift – an experience that the other person remembers. We’re obviously aiming more for “calla lily” than “forgetting your girlfriend’s name”, but even the bad experiences usually make funny stories a couple years after the fact.

That memory, that story, that’s what great gift giving is all about.

Care To Share?

In keeping with the story theme, I’d love to hear some of your stories. Valentine’s Day stories would be most appropriate, but any are welcome. Leave one or two in the comments!

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12 Responses - Add Your Input!

Posted February 13, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

We should not just limit the day of showing love to one another on Valentines day but it should be everyday. Show and let our love be felt by those people who love us dearly as well. So enjoy the occasion and be happy guys.
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Posted February 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

[...] My friend Robert from Untitled Minimalism absolutely nailed it in his post The Secret to Experience Gifts, Valentine’s Edition. [...]

Posted February 14, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

My husband is always great at making things memorable. One year he had a scavenger hunt for me for my birthday with a surprise party at the end. He spent very little money on it, but I’ll always remember it. :)

    Posted February 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    That’s awesome! I’ve always liked scavenger hunts, as long as the person putting them together is at least a little creative.

    Thanks for sharing your story Anna!

Posted February 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

The only Valentines Day I remember was the one my bf (at the time) picked a fight with me over my wanting to buy him a gift…as in why was I getting him a gift *on* Valentine’s Day when I should be doing things for him every day…? 0.o Needless to say, he didn’t get a gift from me that day, or any other. ever. again. Sheesh.

    Posted February 15, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    He did have a point, though, Heidi – why do we wait for special holidays, manufactured by marketers, to show our appreciation for our loved ones?
    Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted..Photos Of This Morning’s Lunar Eclipse

      Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      Teehee, well yes, and no. I agree that we could all show a little (a lot) more love and kindness towards others but, he was yelling at me, in public, on Valentines day….no.

        Posted February 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        I’m a little late to this party, it seems, but *wow*. I couldn’t imagine getting in a public fight with my wife because she wanted to get me a gift – that would be insane!

        I think you handled that about the best way you could. :) Thanks for commenting Heidi (and Mike!)

Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

Calla Lilly’s are crazy expensive! They are my girlfriends favorite and they are not in season in North America during Valentines day. I wish i thought of the fake ones. I’ll have to try that next year. Cheers!
Spitfire07 recently posted..Best Present For Girlfriend

    Posted May 9, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    And the fake ones are good for longer than a few days. :)

    If you want a nice presentation you could get a vase and some white mini-rocks or glass beads (from the dollar store – the only place to get stuff like that, IMHO) and it would look very, very nice.

    Thanks for commenting!

Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

Since we’re working on simplifying our lives, we’ve stopped gifts all together for most holidays, just sharing an experience. For Christmas we exchange practical gifts. Last year one of my gifts was a new kitchen sink strainer! But I love it.

Posted December 18, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

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