I think most of us can agree we are in the pursuit of happiness. We want things, people and experiences that make us happy and keep us happy. Many times, people assume that physical objects will make you happier because they “last longer.” After a trip you’ll come back with some photos and fun memories, and it can seem like maybe you shouldn’t have spent so much money on the trip. If you buy a new TV, you’ll watch it every day, which makes it seems like it is more valuable.
However, it’s actually been determined that experiences are more likely than material goods to lead to happiness. Why?
The reality is, we get bored with stuff easily. Sure, things make us happy…temporarily. But then we adapt to them, and they no longer give us that rush of excitement, which ends up making us want more new things. It’s a cycle. Whether it’s a new iPad or a new pair of shoes, the excitement we first experience with the object ends up fading.
Instead of buying the latest Apple product or a new car, studies suggest that you’ll get more joy spending money on experiences. Money can buy happiness, but only to a certain point. Your satisfaction with physical objects inevitably diminishes over time. However, your satisfaction with experiences becomes a part of who you are. Experiences are what you remember, even if it’s a once-and-done experience. Experiences bond you with others and become stories that you tell for years.
I think about my own life and the physical objects I have bought versus the experiences I’ve enjoyed. When I look at some of the things I’ve bought, it’s easier for me to remember the bad choices I’ve made – the shoes that hurt, the shirt that doesn’t fit exactly right, etc. But when I look back on my experiences, I remember the good memories from my trips. Even the mishaps turn into good stories.
Let’s take my trip to Busch Gardens for example. We went when they were open for Christmas last year. I remember the rides, the delicious food, the fun shows, the hot chocolate and the overall enjoyable experience I had with family. I know that while we were there we had to deal with cold weather, the crowds, waiting in line, etc. But what’s interesting is how those things fade into the background. I don’t dwell on it. It doesn’t affect the happiness I experienced.
It’s also more difficult to compare experiences. You could easily compare your diamond ring to someone else’s…just look at the carats. If hers was better, it would be easy to tell and you might be really bummed out. But how well could you compare your trip to the Florida Keys to my trip to the Florida Keys? If my experience sounds better than yours, it might bother you a tad, but you have your memories from the trip and your connection to the Keys that makes it incomparable and invaluable.
Also, think about how much we anticipate experiences compared to material goods. It’s the difference between waiting for your new iPhone to arrive versus looking forward to a vacation. We are so impatient when it comes to material goods. Waiting for a new item is the worst, which is why two-day shipping with Amazon Prime seems like a gift from God. We want that instant gratification. On the other hand, when it comes to experiences, it isn’t like that at all. Waiting for an experience actually makes us happy, and you start accruing that happiness before you even buy it.
Experiences also become a part of who we are – our identity. If I asked you to tell me your life story, you’re more likely to include experiences than you are your possessions. You might tell me about your wedding but not your wedding dress. You might tell me about hiking the Appalachian Trail but not about the Fitbit you wore. If it came down to it, would you rather wipe the memory of your wedding or give away your wedding dress? I think we all know the answer.
Most of us know that life experiences will make us happier, yet we still choose to spend our money on material items. We try to find this balance between happiness and monetary concerns. It’s more challenging to estimate the economic value of memories compared to a new car.
But when you look at what makes you happy in life, is it the new car or the once-in-a-lifetime trip you took with your family? Is it the fancy pair of shoes or the big event you wore them to?
The next time you are faced with the dilemma of where to spend your money, I encourage you to not buy stuff. Buy an experience. It will make you happier, bring you closer to others and create memories that are far more valuable than any object you can buy.
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From the College Football National Championship to the Kentucky Derby, QuintEvents offers a plethora of experiences that you can enjoy. Let us help you plan a trip to the event of your choice! Make memories that will last a lifetime and treat yourself to an experience rather than a material item.