Normally I use this blog to talk about career choices and tips for happiness within your career. But today I wanted to cover another subject that I discovered about a year ago and has had a significant impact on my life.
Today we are going to talk about what to spend your money on and how it will make you happier. It’s an article I found on FORBES that you can read for yourself here if you have time.
The title of the article is Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things and Travis Bradberry is the author behind it.
When you think about buying a new toy, and you compare that feeling you get from the new toy to the feeling you get doing something you love to do, which do you think makes you feel happier?
Well, Let’s Experiment.
Think about a toy or object that you bought recently that you feel brings you a lot of happiness. It’s probably something like your new iPhone or a new TV, maybe a new kitchen set you bought.
Try to remember how you felt when you got it. Try to remember how long that happiness lasted and how long you used it.
Now think about a time you spent money to experience something. A local example here in Utah is going to Lagoon, a concert, or skydiving in Ogden.
Which time did you smile more? Which event in your life do you feel brought you more happiness? My initial thought when I tried this test for myself was buying my new iPhone had made me significantly happier. It helped to organize my life and made certain aspects of life easier. But as I started to compare that feeling to the feeling I got thinking about my recent camping trip, I realized that the camping trip gave me a lot more value and made me a lot happier than my new iPhone. I noticed that as I was thinking about the trip and what happened on the journey that I was alright smiling significantly more than I was when I was thinking about the new iPhone. The happiness I got from my camping trip has not faded like the happiness from my iPhone has.
I bet you probably feel the same!
The reason why I believe the experience made me happier than the item I bought is that it provided me with a memory. It gave me experiences with other people, and it’s something that I can think back to when I need a good laugh. It provided me with stories to tell and experiences that helped me grow. You don’t get something like that with a material possession.
“We assume the happiness from buying something will last as long as the thing itself.” – Forbes
Experiences Become Part of Our Identity
In the article, Travis states that “Experiences become a part of our identity. We are not our possessions, but we are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been.” I think this ties into what I was saying earlier. When you can tell stories about things you have done, people start to associate the experiences you have with who you are as a person. I believe this is one of the reasons that experiences make you happier than material things.
Just think about when you are applying for a job. It’s the same concept! You put all your relative experience on a resume so the hiring manager knows that you can do the job. Experience that you gain from doing the job efficiently and effectively.
When you buy a product, you are happy at first, but the happiness starts to dwindle because you see other products come out that can do more things. The joy sticks around initially but fades with time. It’s natural, and it happens to everything we have ever bought. I think about all the toys my parents bought for me that I played with one time and decided I was bored of it. I never picked it up again, and my parents wasted their hard earned money on a toy that I “needed.” When I think back to my experiences as a child, I remember playing in the jungle gyms at the local Burger King way more than any toy I got in a happy meal. Sliding down the slide on a tray was a way more wild experience than receiving the Star Wars bobble head that broke later that night.
The best part of this entire article is the idea that people keep spending money on things they don’t need but feel like they need to because their friends have the latest model. Then we end up with a house cluttered with so many things we need to use Craigslist or E-Bay just to get rid of some of it. People have yard sales for all the things they don’t need anymore. If we all were happy with the things we had that worked just fine and saved the money we would have spent on the new item (for no reason, like iPhone upgrades), we all would be in less debt and have more stories to tell. That seems like a way more fulfilling life to me.
We Do Need to Buy Things, the Trick is to Not Over Consume
Some things in life that we buy do provide us with tremendous value and are worth the money we spend on them. And things do wear out over time and need to be replaced, it happens. I am not saying we all need to stop buying things because if we did then the economy would crash and we don’t want to use ineffective tools. All I am trying to say by writing this article is that if you want a life full of things that you will just get sick of in a few years, then, by all means, buy them. But if you want a life of memories and experiences with people then maybe that’s the way to spend our money. On experiences!
The best part about spending money on experiences is that they honestly don’t cost as much! Think about the new iPhone that costs $800+ and reflect on the benefits of using it. Now compare that $800 to taking your family out for a vacation or multiple events like movies, amusement parks, camping trips, fishing trips, or even just hiking. You would get WAY more value out of those trips, and you could go on multiple trips for the cost of that one phone that you “needed.”
The reality is that you don’t need it. Your phone works just fine and will for a long time. Same with your kitchen supplies, tools, BBQ, or whatever it is that you think you need. Instead, invest in the people around you that are important to you, and I bet you see a change in happiness that you weren’t expecting. If you are wondering why people get to travel the world or retire early, its because they don’t spend money on things they don’t need. They don’t develop bad spending habits and fall into the trap of consumerism. I know a lot of wealthy people, and they all tell me that money doesn’t equal happiness, and I never believed them. But learning about this makes me think that they are right.
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What has been the most memorable experience you have ever had?