Why Buying Experiences is Better than Buying Stuff


A lot of the clothes I still wear I’ve had for years. The video games I play today are all from previous generations. And I still use the same TV, laptop, and cellphone that I’ve had for a really long time.

It’s not that I’m against any of these things or that I’m against spending money. Instead I’ve been investing my money in different ways.

I’m not focused as much on buying new “stuff,” but buying experiences and memories – things that seem to enrich my life more than just collecting material things.

For example, instead of trying to keep up with the latest Macbook, I’d rather spend that money going to concerts with friends or hanging out at new bars and restaurants. Buying new experiences such as these often adds an extra meaning to our lives that material things fail to accomplish.

The reason buying experiences leads to more happiness than buying stuff

Often when we buy that new pair of shoes or new car, we get a feeling called “buyer’s remorse.” This is our tendency to regret our purchases because we feel we may have made the wrong choice, or that we have spent too extravagantly, or something better will be available in the future.

However, a 2012 study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that we aren’t as likely to get buyer’s remorse when we buy experiences.

The reason for this is that when we buy objects they are easily interchangeable with other objects. We get a brand new car, but there’s a new model out within the next 6 months. Material things tend to eventually become out-dated or broken. We get an initial boost in mood when we first buy them, but it quickly dies off.

Experiences, on the other hand, aren’t as easily interchangeable. You can’t trade your first concert experience for someone else’s first concert experience. It’s deeply personal to you – and it’s valuable to you and you alone. When we focus on buying experiences that we can never replace, we build memories and good feelings that stay with us for a lifetime.

Ways to spend money on new experiences

There are many ways you can spend your money on new experiences:

  • Going to a new bar or restaurant with friends.
  • Attending a concert or sporting event.
  • Planning a trip to a place you’ve never been before.
  • Checking out a museum or art exhibit.
  • Signing up for a new class or workshop.
  • Joining a local club or community center.
  • Taking up an extreme hobby like skiing or skating or paintball.
  • Throwing a themed party at your house.
  • Go camping or plan a mountain hike.
  • Buy someone a surprise gift just to see their reaction.

When we spend our money on these types of things, we invest in building good memories. Memories that often stay with us and improve our lives in the long-term.

I’m sure you can still recall pleasant events today that happened in your life 10 or 20 years ago. The pleasure you get from these memories is often much longer lasting than the pleasure you get from solely material-based purchases, which lose their novelty far more quickly.

If you focus your spending habits on experiences vs. stuff, you’re likely to live a more happy and fulfilling life. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should never buy stuff – some material goods are necessary for a comfortable living. The key lesson is that buying things that directly lead to positive experiences often has a stronger impact on our well-being than buying stuff just because we want more.

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