Ask anyone what their ultimate goal in life is and most people will tell you they want to be happy. Happiness is something we all strive to find. We believe that we will only be happy once we achieve certain things like buying the perfect house, getting married or making a load of money. For most of us money is a limited resource and what we spend our money on is what should ultimately make us happy.
It’s a great misconception that having more money will make us happier. Many studies have found that reaching a goal of wealth does make us happy but that our happiness quickly decreases thereafter. Material possessions are rife in this day and age of advancing technology and we tend to want to spend our hard-earned cash on the latest smartphones, computers or cars.
Given a choice between spending our money on possessions or some sort of experience, most people will opt for the latest gadget believing that it will make them happier in the long-run. After all, a new phone will last a lot longer than a three week holiday to New Zealand, right? Well that’s where you may be wrong and here’s five reasons why.
1. We Adapt To Possessions Quickly
Ever bought something and felt that happiness high? You think that thing is the best thing in the world in that moment, but six months down the line will you still feel the same about it? Probably not. The problem is, as humans, we are made to adapt to things. Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist from Cornell University has done extensive research in the link between money and happiness. He has found that the enemy of happiness is adaptation and we can get bored of things very easily, especially with possessions that we have less emotional attachment to. Gilovich’s studies have therefore found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point.
2. Possessions Foster Comparisons With Others
You are much less prone to negatively compare your own experiences to someone else’s than you would with material purchases. Envy can be created through comparisons about material wealth, leading to the harbouring of negativity towards others. Experiences don’t seem to have the same effect – more people tend to be fascinated rather than envious of travel, compared to what somebody owns. This is because it’s hard to quantify the relative value of any two experiences as they are very individual, therefore, jealousy and envy aren’t as much of an issue.
3. Experiences Form Our Identity
What forms our identity is not what car we drive, what latest smartphone we have or the fashionable clothes in our wardrobes. Our identity is made up of an accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been. Buying the latest iPhone is exciting but it isn’t going to fundamentally change who you are; walking the Inca Trail in Peru or doing a skydive in New Zealand will enrich your life in far more ways than you could ever know. At the end of the day, we are the sum total of our experiences.
4. We Are More Interested In People’s Experiences Than Possessions
Shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. Talk to people about the latest gadget you’ve bought and you may get some takers but you will most likely lose your audience after a while. Talk about your travelling experiences and you will find people are interested to know more, they will engage with you better, and it will encourage similar stories. At the end of the day, you can’t really bond with someone who also has an Apple Watch but finding someone who has been to the same places as you can be the start of a friendship.
5. Experiences Last Longer
It is a misconception to think that a physical object will last longer than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation but this isn’t the case. Once we’ve experienced something it stays with us for years and even a lifetime; the investment is much greater and the effects are prolonged.
Anticipation is a huge plus when it comes to experiences. Excitement starts from the very minute you start planning a vacation or outing somewhere and lasts all the way through to the experience and the memories you’ll cherish forever afterwards. Gilovich also discovered that although an experience creates this excitement and anticipation, buying or ordering a purchase actually causes impatience rather than excitement.
So, maybe think twice about what you would rather spend your money on. Happiness can’t be bought but there are definitely ways of spending our money wisely that will help us achieve more happiness in our lives.
Featured photo credit: Danka and Peter via magdeleine.co