Experiences Don't Take Up Room On Your Shelf

Christi and I are really focused on paying off the debt we built up over our (read: my) stupid years. We're on Dave Ramsey's cash-only system. It's working great, but it does require us to get a little creative. Especially on Mother's Day and Father's Day. We had 30 dollars in the Mother's Day envelope. While Dallas, TX, isn't as expensive as San Jose, CA, $30 is still not very much. I wracked my brains to figure out what we could do to show Christi how much we love and appreciate her. I had nothing, so I decided to ask.

"Hey Baby..."


"Well, you know we only have $30 in the Mother's Day envelope..."

"Mmm...humm..." She kept reading her book.

I took a deep breath, "Would you like to go out to eat or have us buy you something special? I'd like to do both, but that would have us sharing a Happy Meal at McDonald's while you unwrapped a new pair of flip-flops from Walmart. I mean, I'm really committed to this cash-only thing and really don't want to go over the limits we set."

I had her attention. "Where would we eat? Thirty dollars isn't much."

"Well, you know most of the restaurants will be pretty crowded after church. You've been saying that you wanted to go to IHOP for breakfast. We could get up early on Sunday and head to breakfast at IHOP before church." I didn't really expect her to go for it. IHOP was definitely out-of-the-box thinking."

"That sounds great! Let's do that!"


"Yeah, that sounds like fun!"

I was relieved.

Mother's Day rolled around and we all got up early and headed to IHOP. Apparently lots of people go to IHOP on Mother's Day because they had Carnations ready for every mother that walked in the door. The waitresses were especially cheery. Laughter and children's voices filled the building.

We had the best time. I don't remember who said what, but one of the kids said something so funny that we laughed until we cried. I couldn't remember the last time we had done that.

That breakfast is one of Christi's favorite memories. And although we didn't buy her a gift, we all got something so much more valuable - an experience.

That Mother's Day taught me a lot. I learned that we could have fun and stay in the budget. More importantly, though, I learned that experiences make a bigger impact than any gift in the world.

I decided that I would rather collect experiences than amass possessions. They last longer. They don't break. They don't become obsolete. I don't feel guilty about using valuable natural resources on something that I'm going to throw away in a couple of years.

Experiences are memorable. They are valuable. They warm the heart when things get rough. And I don't want another gift I really don't need.

I asked the family to take me to the zoo on Father's Day. We decided to wait to go until it was a little cooler, but I'm really looking forward to the trip.

I can't wait to see my kids laugh or my wife's eyes sparkle as she wraps herself in their laughter. I can't wait for the inevitable bee sting and for my three-year-old to paint himself with his ice cream. I can't wait for the lion to roar and totally change the way my kids watch the Chronicles of Narnia. I can't wait to read them stories about Aslan when we get home.

I can't wait for the experience.

JournalPaul Watson