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Load Up On Experiences, Not Stuff

With Black Friday just around the corner, we all have our minds on shopping for our loved ones. This year, consider purchasing something that will last past the latest trend or the upgraded version. This year, give a gift that is meaningful and will leave a lasting impression.

In the blog post “Buy More Experiences and Less Stuff,” the writer poses this question:

Which of these two types of spending do you think makes you happier, purchases that are made with the primary intention of acquiring

A) a life experience: an event or series of events that one lives through, or

B) a material good: a tangible object that is kept in one’s possession.

According to the post, when thousands of Americans were asked this question in a poll, 57% said experiences make them happier. (Carter & Gilovich, 2010).

Sometimes we forget the value of experience and quality time and become overly consumed with “things.” That’s it, they’re just things, which too often become piles of stuff. At Hilton Head Health, we hear people say all the time that this was the best investment they’ve ever made or that their trip was an unforgettable experience. Sometimes we don’t take the time to let these words really resonate and feel the power of an event so significant.

Here are a few reasons why people prefer experiences over tangible objects:

  • Experiences improve with time because they tend to take on new meanings in our minds, but things just tend to get old.
  • People mentally revisit their experiences more than things they’ve bought (Van Boven & Gilovich, 2003). So experiences keep providing pleasure long after the event itself.
  • Experiences resist unfavorable comparisons because each is unique. Things, though, are easy to compare unfavorably because they’re similar to other things.
  • Also, because experiences tend to be unique, we adapt more slowly to them and adaptation or habituation is the enemy of happiness (Nicolao et al., 2009).
  • Experiences tend to be social and social events (generally) make us happy. Things are often not that social.

 So as you make your list of all the people you need to buy gifts for this year, and even when considering what you’d like to treat yourself with, invest your money in something that will create a lasting experience and skip the material goods.

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