Several years ago my husband and I decided that we would downgrade the amount of things that we bought as gifts and instead build experiences for the occasion. Slowly we began to spend less and less on Christmas gifts and birthday gifts. We announced to the kids that we would build a family experience for their birthday instead of doing another party at the local trampoline center or other great place that every other child picks for their party.
We didn't get too much resistance. After we planned a couple of great experiences, they were all in. So now, we spend about $20 on a gift and spend the extra money that we would have spend on a party to go somewhere super amazing and do an adventure that we wouldn't otherwise spend the money on. A couple of our adventures from the past years include: riding in a helicopter to see the Christmas lights in our town (we have a couple of Christmas birthdays), dog mushing in the beautiful town of Winter Park, CO, hot air balloon riding, attending the Harlem Globe Trotters game, paddle boarding on a beautiful mountain lake, sleigh riding through the woods to a fire with hot chocolate and marshmellows, completing the Wreck Tangle Ninja Course in Copper Mountain, CO and so much more. Some of the things we do are adventurous, some are entertaining, some are musical, some are sporty. It depends on the occasion and whose birthday or gift it is for.
I wouldn't change our decision. I am so pleased with all of the things our kids have been able to do and experience. I believe that these experiences help to build confidence, allow them to try new things and become more courageous. Experiences also enhance relationships. Experiences can be made for any budget and any location. Try it out for yourself and see if it works for you!