Family Travel Tips

Charting New Territory to Become a More Happy Family!

Okay so let us be real for a second, while we are a happy family and we really love each other – it is not always Kumbaya or sunshine and roses at our house. We for sure have our family meltdown moments (see the FAQ page to find out more)!! We also have other contributing factors to our family satisfaction and what makes us a happy family. Our faith, our health, and our commitment to one another, of course, plays a HUGE role in our happiness.

That being said, we have uncovered something as of late that we hope will further improve our family values, relationships, and our family dynamic.   We want to share 🙂 (read on if you like, if you figured this out a long time ago, that is fantastic!!).

The research behind our findings –

It was by mistake that we found this fabulous Forbes article at the end of last year.  In the article, the author recounts a 20-year study done by a professor at Cornell University which showed that more “stuff” can often hinder happiness. The author claimed that with such a consumer culture (especially here in the U.S.), it is easy to get lost in “things” that are not needed. Which then can lead to comparison game with ourselves and others dependent on our possessions.

While we didn’t feel like we were basing our happiness on our things, we also were able to notice that we had so many things we just didn’t need (like at all) and we were spending our time and extra income on things that really had no importance or use to us. Often the things we were buying were simply – just things. After a family Sunday dinner, we started a discussion and each person concurred that they would rather spend money on experiences with each other than on “stuff”. We wanted to experiment and see if this really did make us a more happy family!

The experiment –

We decided to make a conscious effort as a family to spend our time and money on experiences and not things. One of the ways we are trying to accomplish our goal is (drumroll please) … This year is the year of NO tangible gifts in the Smith home! Yes, you heard that right – no gifts! Honestly, so far it has been spectacular (to be fair it is only April haha)! As a family, we realize that our best moments are when we are together as a family – traveling, creating new memories, learning, and getting away from the daily requirements of life. We want to encourage more experiences like these.

What our year of NO GIFTS looks like:

  • For every holiday we will do a nice dinner together, but no gifts. Literally. My Mom told us to not even expect a card for our birthdays. Sounds harsh – but not really.
  • We still buy necessities of course and replace things that we need.
  • No more buying things just because.
  • The money that would be spent on Christmas, Easter, birthdays, Valentine’s day etc. all goes toward the family travel budget.
  • For Christmas this year the ENTIRE family (plus one – Tan just got engaged this weekend! Hurray!) will be visiting a destination together that has been at the top of the list for years (more on that in a later post). We will be focusing on what Christmas means to us and spending time together. That is all. 

Why shifting what we spend our money on has made us a more happy family –

This plan has worked for us (so far) because the pressure of having to buy stuff, just because, is gone. We still do nice things for each other. For example; my sweet Mom got me (Kam) an adorable bracelet just the other day after I had a really hard day, and cute Becks still makes little gifts for everyone. However, the requirement of gifting is gone and has been replaced with spending more time together. In other words, our focus has shifted from things to time. We really are looking forward to seeing how the rest of the year will play out! There hasn’t been a birthday yet, so it will be interesting to see how it goes when no gifts are exchanged (yikes haha). We will make sure to share our findings and any hiccups along the way.

What do you do or practice to help you have a more happy family? Are you more interested in things or experiences? Of course, we would love to hear from you below!

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The Smith Fambudget tips, money mangement, family values, happy family, mom hacks, self improvement, how to build strong relationships, family love, experiences over things, happy family tips

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14 thoughts on “Charting New Territory to Become a More Happy Family!

    1. Thanks so much Christie! It has been so nice, albeit a little strange. (Other people think we are bizarre!) Thank you so much for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!

      Lots of love!
      The Smith Fam

  1. I’m really impressed with this especially because it really teaches kids how to value time together. I’m guilty of over indulging my 4 kids. I have a 12 year old who is only happy playing a video game. We took him skiing in Vail for Spring Break and he had zero appreciation for it. Shame on us. What you’re doing is fantastic.

    1. Lindsay, oh we have had those moments for sure! I remember being in a world class museum and all I wanted to do was text my friends – I couldn’t have given two craps about the paintings at the time haha. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment.

      All the love!
      Kam Smith

  2. You and I have a lot in common! Going to be subscribing to this! Gifts are a hard one in our house, as I am a minimalist, I would rather have none. My husband, however, feels they are essential to the spirit and does not want the kids to feel jipped. Will be sending this to him. 🙂

    1. Hello, Jessica! Hurray for kindred spirits! You will have to let me know what your husband thinks hehe (it is an adjustment for sure and we are still in the experimental phase of the no gifts. I really REALLY wanted to concede for Easter – but I am staying strong:)). Minimalist women for the win!


  3. Experiences over things us a great idea. My other half and I only buy each other experiences for birthdays and Christmas. We have enough things so would rather make memories!

    1. So true! What types of things do you like to do together? I am always up for some ideas on how to give experiences versus gifts. Thank you for stopping by!


    1. Thank you, sweet Tara! Glad you liked it, we would love to have you visit anytime.


  4. Hi Kam,
    I think your goal is great. Since a few years I tried to get rid of all that useless stuff I have or had and we don’t buy new “useless” stuff (with small kids its not so easy, you know this. I think 80% of all the items in our house belong to the kids. )
    Since a few years Stephan and I do not exchange presents, but the kids still get birthday presents, I think they would kill us 🙂 but all of us agreed to do without christmas presents, but go on a vacation instead. It workes fine. My mum and I do the same, instead of giving presents, we go out for lunch or dinner, or on a day trip.
    I wish you happy easter days
    Lovely greetings

  5. Couldn’t agree with your ethos more. Certainly, the way I attempt to raise my child is with an appreciation for the things they have but more importantly the people around them, an idea that can only be cemented by experiences. A really enjoyable read and one that certainly brightened my day

  6. I love it!! What a brilliant idea. I hope to be able to apply that in a few years as my kids get older and can understand the concept behind it a bit better. It’s a genius idea and I couldn’t agree more, experiences over things most definitely!!

  7. I really love this Kam and I would 100% prefer to give experiences over gifts. I’ve tried to do this on all occasions in the past couple of years but I’ve also given gifts as well as experiences which seems to have added more stress and expense. I don’t think my kids appreciate experiences enough and sometimes they seem to think the experience is more for me as I love going places (they don’t share my travel bug ?) In saying that, they love every minute of each experience and trip when they go. I’m hoping they will have more appreciation in the future for all the opportunities and experiences they’ve had so I will continue to gift experiences that they moan about but love when they go ?

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