Spend Money On Experiences, Not Things (Here’s Why)
Written by: Kirsten Cowart
When you are happy, life seems to go a bit better. Colors seem brighter, you enjoy the songs of birds and you are kinder to the people around you.
If you were to believe the commercials you saw on TV, you would think that the secret to happiness is in getting a new smartphone or a nicer looking car. But… having a lot of stuff doesn’t actually make you happier.
Oftentimes, you buy stuff because you think that maybe having a physical object will last longer. In the end though, those things will slowly decay, get damaged or become outdated.
However, according to some new research, you will be much happier if you spend your money on experiences to make memories rather than on things.
I personally have to say that I agree with these research findings. I have had some incredible experiences traveling, meeting new people and doing things that I would never have dreamed of before. Those experiences changed me, added flavor to my life and brought me closer to my partner. I would rather travel and have experiences like that than spend money on a thing.
Money Spent On Things Is Only Temporary Happiness
According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation.” After over 20 years of studying money and happiness, he has found that “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.”
So, the happiness and excitement you feel when you get something new is temporary and often will wear off with time. If you instead spend the time and money on learning a new skill, having a new experience or learning about a new culture, then you will carry that happiness much longer.
Dr. Gilovich synthesized many psychological studies where he found that money can buy you happiness, but only up to a certain point. In the study, people self-reported their percentage of happiness after buying material objects and after experiences.
Experiences Create Long-Term Happiness
When the test subject bought something, his/her happiness was the same as having a new experience at first, but then over time, the excitement wore off and his/her satisfaction with buying something new went down. Those who had the new experience, on the other hand, had their happiness go up over time.
It is definitely counterintuitive to think that a memory that is in the past would make you happier then a current physical object. However, if you compare it to other things in your life that follow a similar pattern, it starts to make sense.
For instance, when you consume a sugary drink, your energy will spike and then drop off. Whereas, if you eat something with complex carbs, the energy lasts longer and doesn’t have a sharp decline in the end. Perhaps buying things is like sugar and life experiences are like healthy whole wheat foods.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Dr. Gilovich. “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.”
Even Bad Experiences Seem To Help With Overall Happiness Over Time
In another study that Dr. Gilovich conducted, they found that, even if you have a negative experience and then have a chance to talk about it, you will remember it as a good or useful experience and that increases overall happiness. Something in the past that was hard or scary becomes a future funny story or experience to share with others.
“We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”
A lot of meaningful connection can come from shared or similar experiences that also add to our overall happiness.
Do you feel that experiences make you more happy than physical objects? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
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