Sky diving may make a great "experience gift." (Source: Wiki Common/MGN)
(RNN) - The holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year, and gift-giving is one big reason why.
According to USA Today, more than 22 million people shopped at Walmart on Thanksgiving night, and a record $1 billion was spent online during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Our society takes gift-giving seriously.
Rev. Thaddeus Douglass of Jackson, AL says the meaning of the holiday season can be lost when people have high expectations for certain gifts. That can put pressure on the giver to choose, find and figure out how to pay for just the right thing.
Associate Professor Ryan Howell from San Francisco State University says when deciding on a gift, "focus on the person instead of the receipt."
Howell says a new twist to gift-giving that is gaining popularity is "experience giving."
For example, if the person you are shopping for loves the Dallas Cowboys, instead of buying Cowboys paraphernalia, take that person to a game. The experience will mean more, and the memories will last longer.
"Happiness created by purchasing an object fades as people become used to having it around, but experiences continue to provide happiness longer," Howell said.
Experience giving doesn't have to be as expensive as an NFL football game. The Press Democrat from Santa Rosa, CA, released several examples that anyone would enjoy, ranging from an afternoon of ice skating to safari trips.
Unfortunately, everyone on your Christmas list isn't a candidate for an experience gift.
For traditional gifts, Michelle Madhok, who is a shopping expert and founder of shefinds.com, says to check out T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.
"They stock fresh merchandise in stores several times a week, even up to Christmas Eve, so they don't get picked over like a department store that only gets one shipment," Madhok said.
Madhok also says it's a good idea to scour sales throughout the year. Great gifts might be much cheaper in July. She says to stash those gifts away and when the holiday season arrives, you can stay home and avoid the madness, all while saving money.
After choosing a great gift, wrapping the gift may be as important as the gift itself.
"Take your time and make sure you do a nice job wrapping the gift. You don't have to spend a ton of money; I spend $3 on a spool of satin ribbon every year," Madhok said. "It can make just about any gift look beautiful and will make the person on the receiving end feel that much more special."
Madhok says it's more stressful for the giver than the receiver during the holidays because many are stressing over "what to give or not to give"
Whether you receive experience gift or a traditional gift, the receiver should always show appreciation.
Howell says much of the conflict during the holidays is caused by "forecasting errors or focused illusions."
"People tend to predict what the holidays are supposed to be," Howell said. "They don't have realistic expectations."
Just being grateful for the thought is what Douglass' advice to those receiving gifts.
"Be appreciative that someone considered to take the time to bless you," he said. "The expectancy of always wanting a gift during the holiday season can shatter the true meaning of Christmas."
Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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