As Holiday Gift-Giving Looms, Science Explains Why Experiences Are Better Than Things

There have been many studies in recent years explaining the science behind the consumer's shift in happiness when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. There has been a dramatic change in purchasing across age groups, including millennials and older generations, with experiences now trumping things as a more desirable gift.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

November 05, 20219 min read

Ford wyoming center
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Sponsored by Ford Wyoming Center

Figuring out what to get family and friends for the holidays can be one of the most challenging and stressful things about this time of year. The holiday season this year looks even more frustrating as we consider issues with ordering online then wondering if the item will arrive on time. Taking into account harbors with massive ships idling away amid a lengthy unloading process, lack of truck drivers to deliver goods from port to shipping hub, and then considering the increase in “porch pirates” who brazenly lift deliveries from front doors in broad daylight, will the items arrive at all? There’s an easy answer to the conundrum; let science help you decide!

There have been many studies in recent years explaining the science behind the consumer’s shift in happiness when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. There has been a dramatic change in purchasing across age groups, including millennials and older generations, with experiences now trumping things as a more desirable gift.

When gift shopping, we often settle for the typical clutter-making bits and bobs that no one really needs in their life.

Overly-sweet edibles, tchotchkes, home decor items, housewares and kitchen appliances often top the list of things we give for Christmas and various other special occasions throughout the year.

While the thought is always there and appreciated, sometimes that doesn’t always make up for the fact that you now have three blenders in your cupboard or more decorative cushions than sofa space and what seems like every flat surface cluttered with ‘stuff.’

Hmmm… If only there was a viable solution for gift giving for all of those special occasions…

Memories are the gifts that keep on giving. Experience gifts are great options for every age group. Couples, families with children, and everyone in between can reap the joys of new and shared experiences with and from the people they love.

Studies have shown experiences to be more beneficial for everyone, not just millennials. Based on his research, psychology professor at Cornell, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, says, “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods.”

Are the toys stacking up? Kids tend to ‘get and forget,’ so the toys they no longer want or use end up in a pile or stashed in the closet with all the other forgotten toys. Instead of adding to the growing pile, why not take a trip as a family?

After more than a year of being cooped up in our homes, distanced from those we love and care about, this holiday season is screaming out for experiences with those we have missed the most.

The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that we derive happiness from the experiential more than the material, meaning we find more satisfaction traveling and enjoying live entertainment than getting a new tv or jacket. Why? Happy memories endure while the value of material possession fades.

Not yet convinced? Here are four reasons why experience gifts are better than things.

Experiences make memories, while things make clutter

This is particularly true as people get older and already have everything they want and need. Marla Cilley (A.K.A. The Flylady) defines the clutter that’s been created, that is taking up too much precious space in our homes, making it hard to clean and organize because we feel obligated to hang onto everything, after all, “it was a gift…” as S.T.U.F.F.: Something That Undermines Family Fun. All of those things cluttering our homes, can lead to a lack of positive energy movement in our environments causing needless stress. Face it, if it was a gift from someone you love and care about it’s much more difficult to declutter and remove from your space than say, junk mail.

Instead, if you were to take photos of attending a festival with your significant other, or a girls night out with your BFF, then you will be rewarded with lasting memories.

In a study conducted by Gift It Now, experiences were found to be preferred 68% of the time, with millennials the leading demographic in the study. The penchant of experiences to things indicates that trends are indeed changing when it comes to people’s inclinations for gifts they’d rather receive and gifts they’d rather give.

When the opportunity to make memories with an experience is compared with a common tangible good, the experience prevailed. This indicates that people are interested in exploring, adventuring, experiencing and making memories as opposed to receiving gifts that will likely end up being stuffed away in the cupboard, soon to be forgotten.

Experiences are inclusive

What’s better than visiting another town and attending an event? Visiting with friends and family! The beauty of an experience gift is that it doesn’t have to just be a gift for one person to enjoy; you can gift it to one or all of your friends and make it a memorable occasion that brings you all closer.

Most experiences are something you can do with one or more friends or loved ones. These experiences with friends and family are cherished and thought more valuable than evenings spent at home.

From Gift It Now’s study, seven of the ten experiences provided were ones that could be enjoyed with multiple people. 

Experiences don’t lose their value

Unlike tangible goods that lose value as soon as you open the box or leave the store, experiences are rich in value. Even though the value received from an experience isn’t the type of wealth that can be easily evaluated, it still makes you rich in feeling.

An unknown author once said, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer,” and it couldn’t be more applicable to an experience gift. You can make someone rich in experiences by giving them an experience voucher to their next adventure as opposed to a new puzzle, objet de art or trendy small appliance.

Experiences make things better

The purpose of purchasing or gifting a tangible item is to see the enjoyment from the experience it provides. The focus here is on the experience part of the item. As the experience is the core reason and purpose of purchasing a tangible gift, why not skip the clutter, skip the burden of what to do with one more thing, and go straight for the experience?

The shift towards experiences over physical goods as a gift has seen an increase in recent years, especially in the weeks and days surrounding special occasions such as Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Bottom line, if you’re ready to become a Gifting Genius, it may just be the perfect time to join the rest of the world and start giving experiences.

In The Cowboy State, what’s perfect for every occasion and recipient is a Ford Wyoming Center Gift Card. It is the fastest and easiest way to give everyone what they want – a card with benefits to boost their experience. Available in various denominations, a Ford Wyoming Center Gift Card can be used for future online ticket purchases and in-house tickets, or your favorite food & beverage at the concession stands! With the central location, abundant lodging, dining choices and ease of access, meeting up in Casper is a slam-dunk. Formerly the Casper Events Center, the Ford Wyoming Center brings entertainment and experiences in the form of concerts, comedy, sports, marketplace and exhibitor events and so much more!

Give a Ford Wyoming Center Gift Card for the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries for someone special and certainly for employees for holidays, as a ‘Thank You’ or to congratulate them on an accomplishment. You’ll be giving good times and lasting memories with live entertainment. Everyone on your gift-giving list gets the freedom to choose what they really want, and you have the added bonus of joining in the fun and partaking of the experience with the recipients.

Click Here To Purchase


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FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions About Ford Wyoming Center Gift Cards


The Ford Wyoming Center Gift Card can be used for purchases online at, charge-by-phone at 307-577-3030 or 800-442-2256, or in-person at the SinclairTix Box Office.


The Gift Card can be used towards the purchase of most tickets as well as the concession stand food and beverage at the Ford Wyoming Center. Some exceptions may apply. The Gift Card may not be applicable for all types of tickets or for tickets to certain types of events.


Just like cash, a Gift Card is not replaceable if lost or stolen.


The Gift Card has no expiration date.

HOW DO I CHECK MY GIFT CARD BALANCE?To check your Gift Card Balance, Click Here.

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Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter