Science Says You’ll Be Happier Spending Money on Experiences Instead of Things

Finally, there’s confirmation.

According to Jay Cassano over at Co.Exist, there is a science that provides solid logic on why we should spend our precious paycheques on experiences rather than on things.

Let’s be honest; as soon as life gets real with bills and mortgages, most of us need to pick and chose where to spend those extra dollars.
Though people spend their money on different things, depending on priorities and interests, there does seem to exist a logic that it makes more sense to buy a physical object than spend money on a one-off experience like a concert or a fancy dinner. The thought is that, because the object will last longer, it will bring more long-term happiness than an experience.

New research, however, reveals that spending our money on experiences rather than things will make us happier in the long run.

It comes down to adaptability.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

It makes sense.
Think of how much more anal you were about dirt on your car when it was new. Or how much better care you took of those expensive sunglasses when they first graced your face. Right?

The studies of Gilovich and his colleagues basically found that money does buy happiness – but only to a certain point. Subjects studied reported their levels of happiness in the wake of major material and experiential purchases, claiming that both purchases made them equally as happy initially.

Over time, however, the levels of happiness with the things decreased, while subjects became more satisfied with the money they had spent on experiences.

Absence is proved to make the heart grow fonder once again. The reason for the decrease in happiness can be attributed to the fact that we become so used to having a material present in our lives, that it’s not special anymore like it was when it was first purchased.
With the experiences, however, they become ingrained in our minds and identity (and Instagram accounts).

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

It’s true that some experiences aren’t always that great; we’ve all been on shitty vacations and to disappointing concerts. But, apparently, those brutal experiences will make us happier in the long run as well when they provide an entertaining dinner table story or first date conversation starter down the road.

Unless you’re The Real Housewives, research also finds that people foster deeper connections with people over shared experiences as opposed to shared things. It’s way cooler to strike up a conversation with someone at a party about the surf camp in Nicaragua you’ve both been to than the watch you’re both wearing.
Finally, people are less likely to negatively compare themselves to others when it comes to their experiences, rather than material purchases. It’s more difficult to compare experiences than it is cars, after all.

So, travel, explore your city, check out art exhibits, hit a matinee, or learn a new skill. Memories are the most valuable thing money can buy.


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