By Riki Markowitz

You’ve probably heard the famous—possibly apocryphal— story about the commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office who declared in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” It’s easy to feel that way about finding unique gifts for clients, too. Those custom “home sweet home” plaques and engraved key chains are thoughtful trinkets, but memorable? Not really. But don’t get caught in the trap of shortsighted thinking like Commissioner Charles Duell. Just free your mind and let your creativity take over.

Here are some pretty thoughtful gifts that clients won’t soon forget, and then a few tips for coming up with your own unforgettable ideas that show how much you care.

“Things” provide just fleeting happiness. That’s a scientific fact. On the other hand, experiences make people happier. The novelty of a gift wears off after about eight weeks, according to a research psychologist from San Francisco State University. Ryan Howell found that experiences—like a family trip—make people feel happier.

In Austin, there are a number of experiential gifts you can give to couples, singles and families. A seasonal membership to Texas Rowing Center gets you unlimited usage of kayaks, canoes and stand-up boards. You don’t even need a pass for each individual since members are allowed to bring a friend. For a couple, you can buy a weekend pass at Austin City Limits or SXSW music or movie festival. If your clients are into comedy, get passes to the Moonlight Comedy Festival, which is in town each April following SXSW. MoviePass is not unique to Austin, but it’s cool, nonetheless. Right now, a subscription for one costs $9.95 per month. Business Insider called MoviePass an “all you can watch movie buffet.” The only film buff this gift won’t impress is the one who goes to see more than one movie a day.

While the memory of an experiences can last a lifetime, don’t underestimate utilitarianism. One Denver, Colorado, agent had just closed on a house for a client who relocated from Hawaii. So what do you buy for someone who had never been in a snowstorm? A snowblower, of course.  It’s a gift that checks every box: thoughtful, useful and it’s fun, too. Especially when the neighbors are clearing their driveways with a shovel.

For young families, gifting a tree that can grow with the family is a thing and an experience all at once. The tree can grow with the family and become part of a lifetime of memories. One day it can hold a tree fort for the kids, a swing for mom, and then use it as a backdrop for all your family milestone photos.

Fruit-bearing trees are a gift that will keep on giving. Edible plants well adapted to Austin’s climate are Mexican Plum and Granny Smith Apple trees.

Almost anything custom made by a local artist is thoughtful for several reasons. It’s a unique gift for your client but also supports local artisans. So how do you find just the right handmade family name plaque or personalized watercolor painting? Etsy is the online marketplace for handmade items. You can purchase an item individually or even order in bulk from an artist you like. And even with a bulk order, your seller can add a unique flourish to each item. Make the gift even more meaningful by purchasing from an Austin artist.

Have you ever gotten a box subscription? Talk about a gift that keeps giving. Cratejoy is a subscription box marketplace and they also happen to be based in Austin. You can find a subscription that fits any clients’ interests. They offer everything from boxes for kids to fishing kits, and local wines and beers. Tolu Babalola, head of growth, says, “Cratejoy lets you discover new things you probably would have never come across on your own.”

Do you have a client who loves to bake? Homemade Bakers has a monthly baking kit subscription for all levels of experience. Some recent deliveries included ingredients for making Red Velvet sandwich cookies and Snickerdoodles from scratch. You can give your “Geek & Gaming” clients a monthly subscription for anime, video or board games. The UnboxBoardom offers family, strategy or party game boxes.

As you can see, finding a caring and unique gift for clients is not that hard. It’s only difficult when you wait until the last minute and then feel too bogged down by other obligations to really hone in on that fun, special something that will brighten a client’s day.  RL