Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things

Picture this: You’ve just finished working your busiest time of the year. For all your efforts, you receive a nice big paycheck.

To reward yourself, you look for places to spend your hard-earned money. What would you choose out of these options?

• A brand new TV or a vacation abroad?

• A piece of jewelry or a multi-course meal at a restaurant?

• The latest phone model or a class on learning a skill?

All of these questions point towards how we should spend our money. Should we spend it on material objects that will likely bring enjoyment, or on new experiences that have uncertain outcomes?

One reason for this is that the happiness you feel from buying ‘things’ can fade quickly. That’s because:

• we get used to new possessions – what once seemed novel and exciting quickly becomes the norm

• we keep raising the bar – as soon as we get used to a new possession, we look for an even better one

• the Joneses are always lurking nearby – things, by their nature, foster comparisons, and there’s always someone with a better possession than us.

Spending money on experiences can make us happier because:

• experiences become a part of our identity – they are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods

• comparisons matter little – we don’t compare experiences other people have in the same way that we compare things

• anticipation matters – anticipation of an experience causes excitement and enjoyment, while anticipation of obtaining a possession causes impatience

• experiences are fleeting, which is a good thing – the very fact they last a short time makes us value them more.


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1. Science proves that spending money on experiences will make you happier in the long run

• You might think that spending your hard-earned cash on a physical object will bring you more happiness in the long run than a once-off experience, but science proves quite the opposite! Whilst the latest MacBook or a cute designer dress may bring you momentary joy, Dr Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor from Cornell University suggests that adaptation is the enemy of happiness. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” In contrast, the memories of the experiences we have had bring a much more lasting joy to our lives.


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2. Travel opens your mind and teaches you in a way nothing else can

• Not even the whole podcast library on iTunes or book store on Amazon can teach you what travel has the ability to. By interacting with people from various walks of life, experiencing different cultures and opening your eyes to a wider world, you’ll gain the kind of knowledge that you can’t source off Google.

3. Experiences are a larger part of who we are than our material goods

• Getting back to the science of it all, Professor Gilovic highlights that “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”


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4. Consuming leads to more consuming rather than contentedness with what you have

• Accumulating possessions is a slippery slope. The more you buy, the more you want. On the other hand, when you travel the world with all your possessions in just a backpack or a suitcase, you’ll realise how little you actually need and you’ll become content with what you do have.

5. Possessions will constantly let you down and will not last

• Material objects break, get lost, or become obsolete. There are a million ways that something we once loved can let us down and become a source of frustration. Sure, travelling doesn’t always go to plan, but even the mishaps and setbacks when you travel add to the experience and are the things you’ll laugh about later on. Your smashed iPhone on the other hand – not so much.

6. Travelling allows you a unique experience that no one else can get

• The reality is, anyone can buy and experience what it is like to own a BMW. The car itself is not personal – it is the same mass-produced vehicle that thousands of other people own and drive. On the other hand, when you travel, you are experiencing something that cannot be replicated. It is a personal journey that you can’t put a price tag on!


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