Supercharge the Value of Your Gift – Without Spending More Money

For many of us, time is more valuable than money these days. Time factors into the value of gifts in many ways, not all of them obvious. Here are some ways to apply Time-Value concepts to make your gifts this year more memorable.


We all like to give the perfect gift this time of year–the gift that will surprise, amaze and delight. I can’t presume to help you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, but I might be able to help you increase the likelihood that your gift will hit the spot.


You will likely take many factors into account when choosing gifts for your loved ones. As I’ve written elsewhere, for many of us, time is more valuable than money these days. Time factors into the value of gifts in many ways, not all of them obvious. Here are some ways to apply Time-Value concepts to make your gifts this year more memorable.

Invest time in a personalized gift: One of the most memorable and cherished gifts that I have received was a photo album of my kids that was put together by Lucy, our regular babysitter. Of course, I always love pictures of my kids (what Mom doesn’t), but what made the gift matter so much was that Lucy had spent time to curate photos into a beautiful collage that captured memories of the year.

The cost? Not much. However the value of the time she invested to pull this together made the album much more valuable to me–especially since I have struggled to find time to assemble my youngest child’s baby book. (The box of loose baby photos continues to collect dust.)

Since time is so valuable these days, every moment you invest in a gift–whether it’s making something by hand, or just taking the time to find something out-of-the-way or unique will likely resonate with the recipient in a way that spending money never could.

Help outsource tasks: Of course, you can also give the gift of time by taking things off the schedule of a busy loved one: cleaning services, errand services, home grocery delivery etc. all may be options that allow you to give the gift of time.


I was particularly intrigued by a Bay Area virtual assistant firm that offered gift certificates for a few hours of services–what a unique way to package their offering that provides true value to the recipient.

Increase the value of the gadget: In my book The 24-Hour Customer, I told the story about receiving an MP3 player for Christmas before iPods were introduced. That MP3 player never made it out of the box because I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to use it. So before buying something “cool” make sure that you know the cost of the learning curve and set-up time involved.

One way to overcome such costs is to do the set-up work yourself so that the recipient doesn’t have to. My husband often does this for me now and it makes all the difference. I’m far more willing to pick up a gadget he gives me because I know that the gift includes the time for set-up, pre-loading music or contacts, and even a few tutorials if I need them.

Give experiences not things: Researchers have found that people will remember that trip to Costa Rica fondly and the happiness will extend well beyond the trip itself. This could also apply to scuba lessons, a home-made meal, or an evening out with friends.

Try time-slicing: One thing we can all use is a way to productively use the time “in-between” allowing us to get things done when it’s convenient rather than setting aside a block of time, or simply to have some fun in just a few minutes while we’re stuck waiting in line. Smartphones have created a rush of apps that allow time-slicing.


On the fun side, take streaming Netflix shows to a smartphone, or popular games like Angry Birds–activities that can be done a few minutes at a time. On the more productive side there are apps like SugarSync or DropBox that allow you to access files wherever you have an Internet connection without having to think about what you might need or when you might get stuck without access to your computer. Or Instapaper which allows you to save all those articles you want to read, but can’t right now, and access them when you have a few minutes.

I hope these tips help you make the perfect gift even more perfect this year by adding the value of time.

Happy Holidays!

Library Journal says Adrian Ott is, “revolutionizing marketing by adding the concept of time.” She is the award-winning author of The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy and CEO of Exponential Edge® Inc. consulting. Follow Adrian on Twitter at @ExponentialEdge.

©2010 Exponential Edge, Inc., All Rights Reserved

About the author

Adrian Ott, award-winning author, speaker, and CEO of Exponential Edge Inc., was called “one of Silicon Valley’s most respected strategists” by Consulting Magazine. She helps relentless visionary executives to foresee disruptive opportunities and accelerate market leadership