There’s a reason experience gifts are more treasured than ugly sweaters or scented candles — we tend to create the best memories from the quality time we spend with loved ones.

And after a year like this one, finding a meaningful way to connect with your family and friends may be more important than ever. Here are five budget-friendly experience gift ideas to give your loved ones this holiday season.

    Expertise is a great gift, and almost anything you offer can be done virtually now. You could gift hours to help set up or design an entrepreneurial friend’s business website. If you’re artistically inclined, give music or art lessons over Zoom to your niece or nephew. If you have a lot of experience as a hiring manager, offer to look over a resume or LinkedIn page for a job-seeking friend, or help them do a mock job interview.

    Not only are you offering useful services that can help the recipient (and you) save some money, you're providing a great way to connect with loved ones.

    Binging on media is everyone’s favorite quarantine past time, so why not share your own binge list, suggests Adam Corey, founder of Podable, a podcast platform.

    “Similar to mixtapes of yesteryear, a binge list is a curated list of streamable TV series, movies, podcasts, YouTubers and books that you create for your friends and family the next time they don't know what to watch or read,” he says. “People are always looking for recommendations and this is a great way to give something that’s of value but doesn't cost anything extra.”

    Most streaming services offer watch party options now, so once you’ve compiled your list, pick a favorite movie or show and schedule time to watch with friends or family.

    If any year required self-care, it was 2020. So go ahead and consider giving a gift that encourages your loved ones to relax and take better care of themselves. The cost will depend on how luxurious you want to go, but there are plenty of affordable options. Perhaps it’s a membership for a meditation app, a fresh flower delivery service or virtual yoga classes.

    “Many of these subscriptions provide options so that you can customize the frequency and quantity to ensure that what you select is right for your recipient, which is something that I think a lot of us are laser-focused on this holiday season,” says Liz Shader, director of product management at Compell’d, a list-building app that helps people save and share recommendations.

    Another great low-budget option if you live near your gift recipients: Ease the hectic pace of the holidays with a helping hand to make your loved ones’ lives easier. Offer to run errands, have groceries delivered or walk the dogs.

    Many businesses where people used to gather have adapted during the pandemic to create fun activities you can do virtually with others. For instance, instead of joining your friends for a “paint and sip” outing, you can purchase at-home paint kits — paint your pet and holiday themes are favorites — and join an online lesson. You could also set up a virtual wine tasting or plan an online escape room night.

    If you’re feeling fatigued by constant Zoom meetings, consider a gift that inspires in-person creativity and action. “Tangible, interactive experiential gifts for families are definitely something we’re seeing our users save in their gift lists this year,” Shader says. “We see a focus — especially as it relates to children’s gifts — on finding fun, experiential gifts that don’t require any screens.”

    For your kids, find something that encourages them to use their imagination, like this fort building kit or a subscription box that sends them different projects to build each month.

    For far-flung relatives, consider reaching out to loved ones to ask for their favorite recipes, then compile and share it with everyone in a family cookbook. Plum Print will even take all your paper recipes — as well as photos and any other memories you want to include — and create a custom book you can send as gifts. Not only are you bonding through gathering the recipes, you’re also helping establish new family traditions, such as baking Grandma’s famous Bundt cake every holiday season.

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