My bestie recently sent me an article from Forbes, entitled “Why You Should Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things,” and even though I’ve recently been trying to take a similar approach in my life, the message, along with the evidence, really resonated with me.
Briefly, as the title suggests, the articles says that you should prioritize experiences over material items when it comes to spending. It discusses how the happiness from buying “things” fades quickly, while the memories you have from experiences shape you and last a lifetime.
One part of the article that I found particularly interesting discussed the Paradox of Possessions:
We get used to new possessions. What once seemed novel and exciting quickly becomes the norm.
We keep raising the bar. New purchases lead to new expectations. As soon as we get used to a new possession, we look for an even better one. (It doesn't help that the newest products are hyped like crazy. Looking at you, Apple!)
The Joneses are always lurking nearby. Possessions, by their nature, foster comparisons. We buy a new car and are thrilled with it until a friend buys a better one—and there’s always someone with a better one.
So true, right?
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some material things that I love to spend money on. I love shopping and I think keeping up one’s appearance is important because it impacts how you feel about yourself, as well as how are perceived by others (but is not the only thing that impacts others’ perception of you!). I do believe, however, that it’s important to strike a balance between maintenance and overconsumption. I personally am trying to reduce my consumption by developing (over time) a capsule wardrobe and decluttering our home (and buying less, of course!). I know that minimizing my consumption of material items is good for the environment, good for my bank account, and good for for my soul.
I remember learning about Buddhism in high school. I may be oversimplifying, but one of the basic teachings I remember learning about was that attachment can cause suffering.
Belongings become burdensome. The more you have, the more you have to lose. The more you have, the more space you need to hold it. After several cross-country moves (California-Atlanta-Boston-California-Atlanta), I can personally attest to this. I have also witnessed the deep anguish that family and friends have experienced when it comes time to part with belongings due to a move, downsizing, etc. If these possessions become how we define ourselves, it will be incredibly painful when it comes time part ways with them.
One of the most impactful books I’ve read is Everything that Remains. It is a personal account of a man’s struggle with consumerism and materialism, and describes how he became a minimalist. It describes how freeing it is to have fewer things to maintain, organize, and keep up with. I’m working on getting there.
It’s hard to fight the desire to want to own things, especially in the society we live in. A documentary I watched in college, called Happiness Machines, describes the psychological methods that businesses and politicians use to make us believe that we need whatever they're "selling." These strategies, combined with the consumption of media in which many people enjoy showing off their newest and the latest things, whether it be TV or social media, makes it really hard to curb those cravings for things. There is a whole profession out there called “Influencers” in which people try to influence others to buy certain things or use certain products!
Things will get old but memories remain forever. Thanks to technology, we are able to document our experiences in ways and hold them close forever. And when I say experiences, that doesn’t have to mean travel. While that is my experience of choice, some take more pleasure in other activities. Experiences can be anything, whether that’s cooking classes, yoga, concerts, sports leagues, surfing lessons or anything else that makes you happy while you’re doing it.
Life is about balance, and it’s important to be intentional with your priorities, in order to stick with them. My wealth is in my experiences, my joy, and my health. Where's yours?