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Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things

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Many people spend their money on things, assuming it will make them feel happier or improve their quality of life. Whether itís a new television, car, gaming system, or other things, many people save for months or even years, passing up vacations and other experiences. As it turns out, this is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

Years of research by a group of Cornell researchers lead by psychology professor Thomas Gilovich has concluded that spending money on experiences provides more lasting happiness than buying things. These experiences can be big, once-in-a-lifetime events such as trips or concerts or as small as going to see a movie, a nice dinner out, or having a weekly manicure. This is largely in part because unlike material possessions, people are less likely to compare the value of their experiences to that of others.


Image: Giphy

Many people choose to spend money on material goods because they believe that once the experience is over, itís gone, while material goods will be there for a long time. The problem with this thinking is that over time, these material objects become a type of background. Once the feeling of newness wears off, we cease to appreciate them. Our memories of an experience remains, however. Over time, even a truly bad experience becomes a good story that we can tell and learn to appreciate more over time.


Image: www.teen.com

Another aspect that makes experiences more valuable is the social aspect that goes along with them. Few people want to hear about another personís material possessions; but they do appreciate hearing the story of seeing a great Movie on opening night, or going on vacation. Even a weekend camping trip is more likely to be the topic of conversation than a friendís new smartphone or living room set. This element of social connection is part of what increases the happiness value of the experiences that you have.

According to the researchers, you can get maximum value from your experiences by planning them well in advance. This allows the anticipation of the experience build over time. Savoring this anticipation for days, weeks, or even years makes the experience all the more valuable emotionally, and provides far more enjoyment than an impulse purchase, where the anticipation is squandered (according to the researchers, you should never impulse purchase, as this completely negates any emotional anticipation value).


Image: Tumblr

In the end, itís up to you to find the right mix of material and experiential purchases to increase your happiness. The next time youíre thinking of saving up for a material good that you donít particularly need, consider spending that money on concert tickets, a weekend camping trip, or a movie night out with friends instead. By continually providing yourself with new experiences, you can increase your emotional well-being, provide yourself with more social currency, and give yourself something to look forward to (and then look back on) over time. After all, you canít take your material goods with you when you go Ė but the experiences you share with others last far beyond your lifetime.

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