Gifts For Grown-Ups That Aren't Just More Stuff

Jess Richardson | May 30, 2019 Money
Gifts For Grown-Ups That Aren't Just More Stuff
Image: iStock

Movie Tickets

We all know that person (or, if we're being honest with ourselves, we are that person) -- the one who, when birthdays or holidays roll around, says we don't want presents because we just don't want any more stuff. We get it -- homes can get easily cluttered with nonsense nobody actually wants or is ever going to use. We don't even know how many times we've polite said "Oh, thanks so much!" before quietly stashing an ill-advised (but very thoughtful) gift from Aunt Helen into the back of the closet until Marie Kondo freed us by letting us know that "gifts are meant to be received not kept." (Meaning it's OK to say "thanks" for a present and then give it away rather than keep it if it's not something we want.) We love the freedom to get rid of things we don't actually want in our homes, but even better is to simply only own things we want.

So when it comes time for gift-giving, what would actually make us happy? Well, experiences tend to provide more joy than objects, after a certain point, so why not ask for things that we can do rather than own? And when it comes to giving gifts, if we don't want to ask what the person desires (or we're worried they won't feel comfortable answering honestly), we still have lots of options. There are wonderful gifts that don't junk up the hall closet but are still wrappable -- we're thinking especially of food items, such as these 16 Gifts That Will Make the Foodie in Your Life Salivate. And if we're looking for gifts that aren't objects because we want to avoid a consumerist attitude, we love the idea of DIY projects. Consider these 19 Homemade Gift Ideas That Aren't Cheesy for ideas on that score. For kiddos, check out these 10 Non-Toy Gifts Kids Will Absolutely Love. We also definitely recommend taking a peek at 22 Holiday Gifts Teachers Really Don't Want -- it's always a good idea to avoid these items.

  • Theater Tickets

    Theater tickets

    Whether they're tickets to a local theater company -- we love supporting the arts community around us! -- or a trip to see a big Broadway show -- we also love big Broadway shows, though they're usually out of our budgets! -- giving someone theater tickets is basically the equivalent of creating unforgettable moments.

  • Class for a Passion

    A Class For a Passion of Theirs

    So often in life, we "don't have the time" to pursue what's truly important to us, whether that's writing a novel, learning to play tennis, or developing a language. This can be done inexpensively with a drink-and-draw night or, for big spenders, a semester-long class at a community college for a passion that's been put aside.

  • Ghost Tour

    A Ghost Tour

    We love the fun of playing tourist in our own town, we love a good walking tour, and we love getting just a little bit scared (in a safe way, of course). Why not combine all three with a local ghost tour? They're super fun, often historically based, and totally inexpensive.

  • Membership to a Local Museum

    A Membership to a Local Museum

    Giving the gift of a museum membership does two things: It gives recipients an excuse to visit a place they may love but avoid because of the cost, and it supports a culture in the area. We love this gift (and it often comes with members-only cocktail hours)!

  • Donation to a Cause Dear to Their Heart

    A Donation to a Cause Dear To Their Heart

    If the recipient openly supports a cause (or at least posts on Facebook about causes important to them), then this gift can feel very personal and have meaning. For anyone with a rescue pet, donating to a local rescue animal organization is a safe bet. Also, nobody is "for" cancer and nearly everyone has lost a loved one to this horrible disease, so a donation to a cancer research organization will always be seen as a positive thing.

  • Cooking Classes

    Cooking Classes

    This may seem like a duplicate of the second suggestion -- a class for a passion of theirs -- but it's really not. Cooking is simply an important, major life skill that people of all genders should be able to do. For people who are really into cooking already, a class on the finer points of a particular style of cuisine is fantastic, but for those who are intimidated, a beginning class can be genuinely life-changing. 

  • Time


    There's nothing like getting time to spend however we want, is there? For close friends who are also parents, offering to spend time volunteering to help them with childcare, which may free them up for a date night an afternoon for self-care, is better than all the stuff in the world. 

  • Meal Kit Subscription 

    A Meal Kit Subscription

    We know we just extolled the value of cooking, but whether the recipient is really into cooking or is an absolute novices, meal kits are invaluable for anyone with a busy schedule. They can help empower new cooks to learn techniques, can get seasoned cooks out of ruts, and can help make dinnertime fast for everyone.

  • Passes to an Amusement Park

    Passes to an Amusement Park

    Giving someone passes to an amusement park or water park is basically the same as giving them an afternoon full of memorie. If it's in the budget, throw in an extra $20 for the professional photo -- sure, they have a smartphone, but it's so much fun to be able to put a picture on the fridge!

  • Whale or Dolphin Cruise Tickets

    Whale or Dolphin Cruise Tickets

    OK, so the word "cruise" connotes a really expensive time. For anyone living on or near a coastline, however, dolphin cruises and whale cruises can be fairly inexpensive -- like to the tune of $25 a pop in some places -- and they're so cool.

  • Wine Subscription 

    A Wine Subscription

    For recipients who love wine, consider giving for a subscription to receive wine in the mail. We love supporting small vineyards, and there are clubs that focus on just that, although the bigger clubs can be a great value as well. 

  • Airbnb Gift Card

    An Airbnb Gift Card

    An Airbnb gift card is giving someone a weekend away (or a weekend in their hometown that they don't have to spend with their parents). We love this kind of experiential gift that helps people make memories. 

  • Sky Diving Gift Certificate

    A Sky Diving Gift Certificate

    Yeah, we'd have to know the recipient really well for this one -- and know that person is up for the physical and psychological challenge that is skydiving. But we think it's a fun idea to give someone a gift like this if they've been talking about wanting to do it but haven't put the money aside for themselves.

  • Concert Tickets

    Concert Tickets

    Of all the gifts that we can give a music lover, concert tickets may well be the very best thing. They're an experience they'll remember, they support artists they love, and they're a great way to spend an evening with someone we care about.  

  • Restaurant Gift Certificate

    Restaurant Gift Certificate

    Dining out is such a treat. Give a gift certificate to the recipient's favorite restaurant, and that can turn into a wonderful date night, a fun way to get together with friends, or even a solo treat for someone who adores eating alone and never has -- or can afford -- the opportunity.

  • Winery, Cidery, or Brewery Tour of the Region

    Go on a winery, cidery, or brewery tour of the region

    Not every region has wine grapes growing in it, but most places in the United States now have some interesting breweries operating -- and there are a growing number of hard cideries too! It's a great treat for anyone who is interested in the process of making these beverages.

  • Movie Tickets

    Movie Tickets

    Going to the movies is such an amazing escape, right? Pick out a specific movie to see with the recipient if it's someone close, or present a gift card so the person can choose which film to see (and who to see it with). 

  • Relaxed Sunset River Cruise

    A Relaxed Sunset River Cruise

    As mentioned earlier, cruises don't have to be ultraexpensive getaways. In fact, they can often be downright cheap -- especially if they're just for a couple of hours at sunset. It's a relaxing time that leads to wonderful photos (and, depending on the participants, usually a couple of drinks).

  • Go Mini Golfing

    Go Mini Golfing

    Give a certificate or plan a day full of this favorite fun "sport" that's as noncompetitive as it is adorable: mini golf. We love a good excuse to go to the mini golf range, and we think it's a fun gift -- just so long as the recipient isn't really into real golf.

  • Contribute Toward a Vacation Fund

    Contribute Towards A Vacation Fund

    Nearly everybody likes going on trips and has a place on a wish list to visit. Whether they've already gone on a honeymoon, are saving up for it, or are single, a donation is a thoughtful gesture. Although writing a check can feel a bit bloodless, earmarking it "for that trip to Italy" is especially kind.

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