I had my birthday last week. For many years, I have taken the day off from work on my birthday, as does my husband. I always plan some NYC-themed activity — a museum, a Broadway show, or some other special event. Having an April birthday means we have to plan for rain. Usually I have a sunny-day plan and weather-proof plan.
The weather-proof plan was to attend the highly-acclaimed Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. After I made that decision, it occurred to me that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was not far from the museum – right next to it, as it turns out. The cherry blossoms bloom in late April at the Botanic Garden, and I have always intended to go see them. So the sunny day plan was to add the Botanic Garden to the excursion. Luckily, the weather cooperated and we were able to do both the museum and garden.
The third part of the plan was a nice dinner out. My favorite cuisine is Italian, and I wanted to go someplace in my neighborhood where we had never been. With an assist from Zagat.com, I found a lovely place just a few blocks away, on Madison Avenue.
Last night, while we were sitting with our daughter and enjoying some Godiva Chocolate that had been purchased in honor of my birthday, it occurred to me that I had managed to enjoy a clutter-free birthday. My gifts were experiences, consumables, and ephemera — in this case, birthday cards. Years ago we started a tradition of writing each other limericks on birthdays and anniversaries. The limerick my husband wrote for me on the back of my birthday card will be scanned and included in this year’s photo album, while the card itself will get recycled after being displayed for a while.
I work with so many clients who are guilt-ridden about gifts they received but feel unable to dispose of. I have often written about gifting experiences rather than things (see Better Ways to Spend). I thoroughly enjoyed my birthday, and especially spending the day with my husband. It was a memorable day, and much better than something that I will stick in a drawer and maybe give away someday.
If figuring out what to buy your loved one is a chore, think about what experiences this person would appreciate — preferably one that he or she can share with you.