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Experiences vs. Things: How to Destress the Most with Your Income

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It’s the classic “keeping up with the Joneses” scenario. You have spent money on new clothes, cars, and other material items throughout the year, and you find yourself unable to afford a vacation. Again. You figure it’s fine because you’ll do better next year, but before you know it, it’s been years since you’ve had an adventure.

How Experiences Enrich Your Life

Experiences can be so much more relaxing and enriching than things in your life. For example: if you have $50 extra to spend and you purchase some new clothes that you don’t really need, you probably feel happy for a bit, but that feeling is likely to wear off pretty quickly. However, if you spend the $50 on tickets to a play, just think how much longer you’ll remember it than you do the clothes.

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Buying experiences allows you to bank memories and feelings forever. You are also likely to learn new things while you’re at it, which also a long-term positive impact on your life.

But Things Last Longer, Don’t They?

This is a common thought process when people are buying material things instead of experiences. They reason that the experience will be over in a flash but the thing will be with them for a long time, so the thing must be a better investment.

The reason this is not necessarily the case is that peoples’ happiness is affected by adaptation. In other words, after you have a thing for a bit of time, the joy it gives you sort of wears off (Leaf van Boven, 2003). This is why people sometimes develop an addiction to shopping. They get a jolt of happiness from buying something, but it’s gone quickly, so they must buy something else.

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Experiences Become Part of You

Unlike material things, the experiences that you have become part of your personality, and that gives you much more joy going forward than a material thing to which you adapt. And when you have an experience with someone else, that helps bond the two of you.

Types of Experiences to Try

By now you may be thinking, “OK, so experiences are better than things, but big vacations aren’t in my budget or I don’t have the time.”

There are many things that you can do that provide you with experiences that add to your happiness. Here are just a few to help you get started:

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  • Attend book clubs, or join other local hobby groups.
  • Learn a new skill by taking a course, reading a book, or teaching yourself through online videos.
  • Go to local art shows, concerts, movies, and other community events.

But What About the Kids?

Kids benefit from focusing on experiences over material gifts, as well. Spending time with other family members in a new place or doing something unique helps them learn and grow.

Consider taking trips with your kids instead of giving them gifts for holidays and birthdays. Other ideas include special “date days” with your kids spent exploring your city or attending local events.

Works Cited

  1. The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things. (n.d.). Retrieved from FastCompany.com.

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