5 Reasons you Should Spend your Money on Experiences…Not Things

Seth Knapp | @iamsethknapp

Many of us in some shape or form, find ourselves entrenched in this so called “pursuit of happiness”.  The beautiful part of happiness is that we have the intrinsic freedom to define it with our own individual, idiosyncratic point of view.  We define what makes us happy, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain characteristics of “happy” people that science has been able to locate.

The ultimate paradox is whether or not material things can make us happy, which is seemingly related to a more overwhelming need for the presence of money.  Yes money can make us happy to a certain extent, meaning it can afford us certain necessities and basic luxuries, however, science now shows that there is a cut off point to that and here are 5 reasons why spending your money on experiences can lead to a happier life:

1. Adaptation is the enemy of happiness.

We tend to buy things because they make us happy and we feel that that happiness will last over time, since “things” last over time, whereas experiences are singular in design.  This tends not to be the case though.  When we buy something, it will fade into the background over time and eventually go unrecognized, thus not creating any further happiness.  It essentially adapts to our environment and fades out of our minds.

2. Singular moments are more memorable.

Experiences are often fleeting by design, but they have a much higher level of arousal and memorability.  The anticipation of a desired experience such as a concert, a vacation, or performing a new hobby, leads to moments that increase our overall level of arousal and create experiences that stick with us positively for a much longer period of time.  Over time, these moments compound one another as they build within us and lead to an overall higher level of happiness.

3. Experiences are part of us.

You may have purchased some material things that you absolutely love: A new iPhone, a watch, or an amazing end table in your living room.  The objects may seem so present that they are a part of you, nonetheless, in the end, they are not, and will always remain separate.  Experiences on the other hand are truly part of us.  As we reflect upon past experiences and the joy they bring us, we are looking within ourselves to reclaim those emotions.

4. Sharing experiences connects us to other people.

Think about the anecdotes you hear about Bill Murray. He is always showing up to random events like a wedding rehearsal dinner to give unsolicited advice to a soon to be bride and groom, or to take tickets at a minor league baseball game in the south.  He is adding a moment and sharing it with these individuals, and these moments add to the experience because it is shared.  This increases your level of connectivity to someone far more than sharing an object or possession ever will.

5. It’s no fun keeping up with the Joneses.

A study conducted by Ryan Howell and Graham Hill showed that we tend to view comparing our materialistic purchases much more negatively than we do comparing our experiential purchases.  One of our neighbors may get a new vehicle or swimming pool and we may then feel the unnecessary desire, (an unhealthy desire) to outdo them or at worst, match them.  We are less likely to hear about a vacation that said neighbors just took and immediately jump on a plane to Fiji to outdo their trip to The Bahamas.  Spending money on experiences leads to less of this behavior and a much healthier and subsequently, happier mindset.

In the end, happiness is not something we should seek, as the actual act of seeking happiness can often times have the opposite effect.  Yes, we all want happiness, you know, true fulfillment; but it is not something that should be sought, rather a byproduct of living a rich life.

Be Well and Be Present.


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