Health, Life

Choose Moments Over Material Things

choose experience over material things

Does money buy you happiness? It’s a question that people have been asking themselves for centuries. Of course money can’t buy happiness, but being able to live comfortably can get you off to a good start.

There are so many bills to pay and things to save for. Many of us don’t have a lot of money leftover to spend on ourselves at the end of the month. So, instead of carelessly spending our hard earned cash on meaningless things, perhaps we should rethink our spending habits. We deserve to get more from our money.

I am not going to pretend I don’t dream about material things, I do. I constantly have a list of things I think I want in my head. A new phone, because the camera on mine is just not good enough. A new car, because my trusty Astra seems to be on its last legs (and I have not looked after it). I also want an endless supply of makeup and beauty products, because they will definitely make me more beautiful (reaalllyy??).  I would also like to own a house in the not too distant future.

Heading to Boots and picking up a new blusher or lipstick might temporarily make me feel great about myself, but the feeling fades pretty quickly. Soon enough there is something else I want to help me look more attractive. Ugggggg, it’s an endless cycle. If I added up everything I have spent in the last few years on things I really don’t need the total would be shocking. It’s probably the same for most people. Go on, admit it.

So, instead of buying objects that make me happy for two minutes, I am going to make an effort to spend my money on things that actually count. I can’t guarantee I won’t buy the occasional mascara or miracle moisturiser, I am only human after all. I am not saying don’t treat yourself every now and then, just be a bit more away of where your ££££ goes.

Research shows spending money on experiences, not things will make you happier.

You may think I am waffling on about money without much thought, but I have actually done some background reading (neeerrddd). I studied Sociology for my degree, and this is exactly the sort of thing that fascinates me (I wish I had enough money to do a masters, does that count as an experience? I think so).

This topic has also had a lot of coverage online lately. There is scientific proof that you should spend money on experiences, not things. When I say experiences, I mean things like travel, concerts, activities, movies and magical moments. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, who has studied the science behind spending money for over 20 years explains that….

‘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.’

In 50 years time when you are reflecting on your life, will you really remember all those flashy material things you bought? The things you buy don’t define you, but the experiences you have and the impact you make on the world does. It’s not just about your legacy though, it’s about making sure you are happy right now, and you continue to have happy moments throughout your life.

So instead of buying yourself a brand new car, go travelling and create memories that will stay with you forever. Instead of buying a brand new sofa or dining table that you don’t need, book an experience day or a weekend trip for you and your partner.

Gilovich conducted a study where he asked participants to rate their happiness based on both experiences and material things. Initially, they rated both the same, but over time people became less satisfied with the material purchases and more satisfied with the experiences they had.

We probably already knew that experiences would provide longer lasting gratification, but sometimes it takes a cheeky little scientific study to make people realise they need to change. Experiences are also better because we are less likely to compare the experiences we have with everyone else in the same way we do with material objects.

‘It certainly bothers us if we’re on a vacation and see people staying in a better hotel or flying first-class, but it doesn’t produce as much envy as when we’re outgunned on material goods.’

Try and stop the green monster coming out when other people buy material things. Instead, reflect on the meaningful experiences you have been lucky enough to have. If you can’t think of any experiences then maybe it’s time to start making some.

With experiences you also have the added benefit of anticipating. Yeah you might be looking forward to the delivery of your new Ipad, but not in the same way as looking forward to a trip of a lifetime or a weekend away from it all. We get caught up in trends too easily and end up buying things we later regret.

 Experiential purchases force you to get out into the world, to meet people and to share moments with the people you love.

 ‘We consume experiences directly with other people,’ says Gilovich. ‘And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.’

Of all the presents my boyfriend has got me the best one was definitely an experience. He took me to see captive wolves (in case you don’t already know I am obsessed with dogs). I think hearing a wolf howl is probably in my top five most memorable moments. It was pure magic.

Swap instant gratification with meaningful moments and you will have a lot more stories to tell your grandchildren.