We make choices every day with our financial resources. Research indicates that experiences are almost always a better investment than things.
Consider the reasons:
Experiences result in greater happiness. According to research, experiences result in longer-lasting happiness than material possessions. This is the case for several reasons (including some listed below). The driving argument is that humans quickly adapt to their external surroundings. As a result, the happiness provided by new material possessions is short-lived. Over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they buy decreases, whereas their satisfaction with experiences over time increases.
Experiences result in less clutter. Most physical possessions eventually become a burden on our lives. They take up physical space in our homes and mental space in our minds. They require care, attention, maintenance, organization. Experiences, on the other hand, are accompanied with little to no physical baggage.
Experiences provide greater opportunity to connect with other people. This is the nature of experiencing things with others. Because we enjoy time together around a common purpose and activity for an extended period of time, we are afforded numerous opportunities to talk and connect with one another.
Experiences result in greater mindfulness. In 2010, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert published an important study in Sciencemagazine. Their research concluded that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” And the greater a person’s ability to “stay present” in a given moment, the greater happiness they experience during and after. Experiences provide greater opportunity in this regard.
Experiences result in less comparison with others. According to research done by Ryan T. Howell and Graham Hill, another significant reason experiences result in more happiness than material possessions is because experiences result in less comparison with others. Or, as they put it, “It’s easier to feature-compare material goods (how many carats is your ring? how fast is your laptop’s CPU?) than experiences. And since it’s easier to compare, people do so.” This doesn’t mean, of course, that comparisons don’t still occur at events (“I wish I had that guy’s seats!”). But overall, both during and after, we are less inclined to compare with others the experiences we enjoy than the material possessions we own.
Whether you’re looking to treat a loved one or indulge yourself, think experiences over tangible goods. The places you’ll see, the people you’ll meet, and the challenges you’ll overcome along the way will have a far greater impact on your life than any material object you could ever buy.
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