Imagine you are presented with two envelopes. One contains a diamond necklace and the other contains tickets for a 2 week trip to Brazil. Which would you choose?
The necklace is jaw-dropping and would elicit a chorus of admiring looks when debuted at your next soiree. But how long would it take for the novelty to wear off only to be relegated to the confines of your jewelry drawer?
What about the trip to Brazil? Sure, it’s not a tangible thing that you can display with a flourish on your décolletage. But wouldn’t your anecdotes about that canoe trip down the Amazon make for an interesting dinner party conversation?
Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more enjoyment longevity than material possessions.
A purchase is generally done on a whim. Whichever end of the spectrum the purchase falls, be it expensive jewelry or a new pair of shoes it is usually appeasing an emotional need. Whether it’s to cheer yourself up or a need to obtain the latest status symbol, a material purchase can mask these needs. Temporarily.
Word has apparently gotten out as there is a huge segment of people who have shifted their thinking in this regard. Rather than continually being at the whim of the urge to consume, these people are opting for life enhancing experiences instead.
Here are 10 reasons why people who choose to spend their money on experiences are generally happier for it:
1. They know the thrill factor of a material purchase is limited
We’ve all been there. That subversive thrill as you whip out your credit card to purchase the latest [fill in the blank] that you have been ogling for months. But seriously, how long does that thrill last? A month? Until a newer version is released? Material goodies satiate us for a little while but once that feeling wanes, you find yourself back at the place where you started. Feeling empty and looking for something material to fill you up.
2. They understand that an experience keeps on giving
An experience, whether it’s buying concert tickets or planning a trip to Europe, seems to offer infinitely more possibilities than treating yourself to a new wardrobe. A material purchase tends to lead you into a cul-de-sac of possibility; you traverse around a few times showing it off and then feel disillusioned once again. Experiences however set you out onto the open road, both literally and metaphorically. Who knows what will happen? Who you will meet? What you will see?
3. They understand experiences open the mind
An experience can fundamentally change you. Shake you to your very core and change everything you thought you knew about life. Or it can be just… fine, no big shakes. Even if it’s terrible, it ends up not really being that terrible after all. Especially in hindsight. When we choose to open ourselves up to a certain experience, we are effectively stepping outside of our usual routine. New sounds, smells, languages and tastes can spark fresh insight and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.
4. They know that anticipation is everything
Research has shown that experiences have a longer lasting effect on pleasure longevity. The first stage involves researching the experience that you want. The second stage comprises the actual booking process. And then the best stage, the anticipation, where you tick the days off the calendar smug in the knowledge that in X amount of weeks you will be road-tripping around Italy. When we buy less and do more, we tend to savor every single piece. A gadget is fun, for a little while, before you tire of its shiny buttons and move onto something else. The magic of being an experientialist is in the anticipation.
5. They understand its reduces Keeping-Up-With-The-Jones-itis
We are all guilty of it. Getting a secret thrill out of the flash of envy in your neighbor’s eye as you pull into your driveway in your brand spanking new BMW. It feels good to purchase the latest and greatest. Yet experiences in general are so personal that even if your friend regales you with tales from her adventures exploring windmills around Amsterdam it doesn’t even seem to tickle a nerve. Windmills just don’t do it for you, or clogs for that matter. You can’t compare experiences, who had the better holiday?
6. They understand that the anticipation will be a positive experience.
We’ve all seen the media coverage of Black Friday sales. People waiting in line at 4am to get their mitts on the latest flat-screen TV. Pushes turn into shoves and before you know it two grown adults are fighting over the one remaining Panini press. Yet you don’t often see grown adults fighting over the set list at a Beyoncé concert. In fact people bond over these types of experiences, sharing their love of Queen Bey whilst shaking their fingers along to Single Ladies.
7. They know that money paid for memories is money spent better
If that trip to India was a disaster, there was still something to be gained from it. Even if it’s just a firm understanding that you and Indian food do not get along together. Time is life’s great eraser and those memories of the 14 hours spent curled around a toilet seat might seem pretty funny when you regale it to your friends’ months later.
8. They know that consuming leads to more consuming
It’s a vicious circle. The more you buy the more you want. So you finally saved up for those beautiful designer heels but just as you hand over your credit card you notice they also come in grey. Immediately the focus shifts and the satisfaction gained from purchasing the shoes wanes as you start to imagine just how well rounded your closet would be if you had both pairs.
9. They know that experiences provide better value for money
Material purchases have a much shorter shelf life than an experience does. Electronic gadgets are only as good as the latest version. What happens when another version comes out? However those dollars spent renting a house with friends in the countryside will provide you with a plethora of fond memories to look back on that practically guarantees you won’t need to shell out for an updated version.
10. They understand that experientialism silences the inner braggart
Experiences tend to be more resistant to unfavorable comparisons, a wonderful family dinner in a restaurant is personally yours and difficult to compare. Far less chance for one-upmanship over whether you had the beef rather than the chicken. And yet those shoes you purchased that were featured in Vogue are less likely to stand the test of time by the time the latest Spring/Summer looks roll around.
At the end of the day, experiences tend to bring us closer to people. Humans are social animals and being closer to people tends to make us happier. In the act of making a material purchase, it tends to separate you from other people, whereas doing something tends to bring you closer.
So, next time someone hands you two envelopes which one do you choose?
Featured photo credit: julien. H via flickr.com