33 Wholesome Gift Ideas That Aren't Things [LIST]

This year, give gifts that will really make your friends and family happy.

Dec 19, 2014
A gift in an envelope

A pretty envelope is the cherry on top (Shutterstock)

Research has found that experiences are what really make us happy - not things. So while sometimes there’s nothing quite like unwrapping a big box and waiting to see what thoughtful gift awaits inside, it appears that looking forward to an exciting event will actually make us happier overall. On top of that, many of us are lucky enough to have everything we need, and often holiday presents get packed away in cupboards, hardly appreciated or used. 
Happily, the holiday season doesn’t have to be wasteful! There are plenty of perfect presents that don’t take up any space at all, and will make the giver and receiver feel great. In fact, many of these gift ideas give you the opportunity to show how much you really know and care about your loved ones - rather than just sending another gadget or gift basket their way.
When it comes to presents for the little ones, you can rest assured that their parents will thank you for gifting something other than a toy. These gift ideas are not only sustainable and environmentally-friendly, they’ll also help you forge a strong relationship with the people in your life.

CLASSES OR WORKSHOPS

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a four-year-old or an 84-year-old, there’s bound to be an interest-based class that they’ll enjoy. Got a skill yourself? Better yet - make a voucher for some one-on-one tutoring and you’ve got yourself the perfect present.
1. Dance classes
2. Pottery workshops
3. Coding camp
4. Language classes
5. Yoga studio classes
6. Horseback riding classes
7. Tennis classes

A children's dance class

A dance class gives hours of fun (Shutterstock)

SUBSCRIPTIONS

These days snail mail can be a bit of a bore, made up largely of bills and junk mail. Brighten up someone’s letterbox once a month for a year with a subscription specially selected for their particular interests. These gift ideas are just a small selection of many - check out your local newsstand for more inspiration.
8. Childrens magazines
9. Comics
10. National Geographic
11. Music magazines
12. The New Yorker

A magazine in the letterbox

You've got mail! (Shutterstock)

MEMBERSHIPS OR SEASON TICKETS

These can be good for friends and family of any age - museums or recreation centers are great for the whole family, while season tickets to the arts might better suit adult recipients.
13. Membership to the science museum
14. A ten-pass to the recreation center
15. Season tickets to the opera
16. Season tickets to the local theatre company

A science museum in London (Daniel Gale / Shutterstock.com)

The science museum can be both education and fun - for the whole family (Daniel Gale / Shutterstock.com)

EVENT OR ONCE-OFF TICKETS

Research shows that the anticipation of looking forward to an event makes us happier than waiting for a physical object - and what better gift is there than the gift of happiness! Tickets to concerts, theatre or sporting events can make friends and family of all shapes and sizes jump for joy.
17. Concert tickets
18. Entry to an amusement park
19. Symphony tickets
20. Tickets to the grand final game of the local sports team
21. Dance recital tickets

A rock concert

Rocking out (Shutterstock)

SUNDAY FUN DAY

Plan a day of fun together, and present the recipient with a personally-prepared itinerary. The sky’s the limit for what you can do with this gift idea. You could even fit some good doing into the day, and get in on the feel-good effect known as the “helper’s high.”
22. Take a road trip
23. Go on a hike
24. Take a lesson together
25. Hang out at the beach
26. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank
27. Spend a few hours outdoors picking up trash
28. Visit an elderly relative and make their day too

A couple hiking

Enjoying the great outdoors, together (Shutterstock)

THE GIFT OF FOOD

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach - and it’s true for women, too! Whether you like cooking yourself or are more skilled at making reservations, put some time aside to nourish your body and your soul in good company.
29. Brunch at a cafe on the beach
30. A home-cooked dinner for two
31. Cocktail (or mocktail!) hour at a funky bar
32. A tin of fresh cookies
33. A picnic in the park

A picnic basket on grass

A picnic for two (Shutterstock)

As well as managing Goodnet.org, Elana writes happy headlines with a particular focus on yoga, meditation and family matters. She has a background in online journalism and web content.

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