Why You Should Invest in Experiences Rather Than Things

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cool_beer_tour_001Most people spend money they don’t have to buy things they will use but once. Think about the outfits you have only worn once, the gadgets that are gathering dust and the expensive art sitting in the home you’re hardly ever spending time in, because you have to work hard to pay back the credit card debt. Or the expensive car you can only afford to use for your commute to work and back. Alright, perhaps that’s all a bit extreme, but you get my gist.

We’re all in a perpetual pursuit of happiness. We think that things will make us happy. But think back on your three happiest moments and you’ll find that, for the most part, they had to do with things you’ve experienced, and not stuff you bought. It is experiences that we remember, not things.

It’s fair to assume that a physical object lasts longer than a once-off experience. However, according to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, psychology professor at Cornell University, that is a flawed assumption. Dr. Gilovich says that we are happy with things until the novelty wears off and we adapt to having them in our lives. He says that we’d be better off investing our money into experiences, such as sunset boat cruises, learning to make beer or tandem paragliding.

Then why does it feel so good to spend money on things?

cruiseThe Easterlin paradox found that money buys happiness, up to a certain points. However, adaptation affects happiness. In his research, Dr. Gilovich found that people reported feeling about the same amount of happiness when they purchased material or experiential items. However, as time went by, the people reported decreased satisfaction with the material items, and increased satisfaction with the experiences they bought.

Why You Should Buy Experience Gifts

Whereas the novelty of a material item that is always closeby wears off, an unusual experience leaves you hankering for more, thus becoming ingrained in our identity. Thus, experiences become a part of who we are.

Shared experiences are particularly helpful in connecting us to other people. You’re much more likely to feel connected after taking a scenic helicopter flight with someone than you would with someone who also bought a new rug. Experiences become the stories we tell for years to come; the events we relive and bond over.

In a recent article in Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Golovich and his co-author, Amit Kumar wrote: “By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness.”

Therefore, it makes sense to consider investing in experiences, rather than things when you’re faced with the dilemma as to what gift to buy your spouse, your child, or your employees. Buy them an experience that will become a part of their psyche – a gift that keeps on giving.

#ExperienceGifts #GiftIdeas #ActivityGifts