Experience VS Possessions

By Super User | Education

Apr 27
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Besides spending on the basic necessities, savings and investments, there’s only so much money you have left. So you have to make certain that it’s well spent. Here’s why spending on experiences, rather than possessions will be more beneficial for you in the long run.

The Paradox of Possessions

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University conducted a 20-year study and arrived at a firm and direct conclusion, which is not to spend your money on things. Why? Because the happiness that things provide fades quickly. Here’s 3 reasons for this.

  1. We get used to new possessions
  2. Our expectations tend to keep increasing
  3. We start to compare our possessions with others

He also mentions that we adapt quickly to the happiness possessions gives us. New things always create excitement at first, but then we adapt to them.

The paradox of possessions is that we assume that the happiness we get from buying something will last as long as the thing itself. It seems intuitive that investing in something we can see, hear, and touch on a permanent basis delivers the best value. But it’s wrong.

Take smart phones for example. Would you rather spend a premium on the latest model of a leading brand, or settle for something mid-ranged and use the amount you saved to go on a holiday?

The Power of Experiences

Gilovich and other researchers have concluded that experiences, as intangible as they may be, deliver much more lasting happiness.

Experiences are a part of our identity

Unlike possessions, we are the collection of everything we’ve seen, done and places we’ve been. Compared to buying a smart watch, which no doubt wouldn’t change a thing about you, taking a break from work to hike a mountain trail would most certainly change who you are.

Comparisons don’t really matter

We don’t look at experiences similarly that we analyse things. In a Harvard study, when individuals were inquired as to whether they’d preferably have a high pay that was lower than that of their peers or a low pay that was higher than that of their peers, a great deal of them weren’t certain. But when they were asked about the length of a vacation, a great number of people picked a longer vacation, despite the fact that it was shorter than their peers. It’s difficult to evaluate the relative estimation of any two experiences, which makes them substantially more enjoyable.

Anticipation matters

Anticipation of an experience causes excitement and enjoyment, while anticipation of obtaining a possession causes impatience. Experiences are enjoyable from the very first moments of planning, all the way through to the memories you cherish forever.

Experiences are fleeting and intangible

Buyer’s remorse: Some form of regret after purchasing something. It might feel great at the moment you receive it but over time, you’ll soon ask yourself whether was it worth the amount you spent? We don’t do that with experiences. The very fact that they last for only a short time is part of what makes us value them so much, and that value tends to increase as time passes.

After all this talk on which would you rather spend the bulk of your money on, experiences or possessions. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all up to you to decide.

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