Material stuff can make you happy

celebration

Experiences vs. money — What makes us happier?

The current line of thinking, which quite a few studies support is that experiences make us happier than “stuff.” Here's an example from Livescience.com:

If you're trying to buy happiness, you'd be better off putting your money toward a tropical island getaway than a new computer…The results [of a Cornell University study] show that people's satisfaction with their life-experience purchases — anything from seeing a movie to going on a vacation — tend to start out high and go up over time…The findings, based on eight separate studies, agree with previous research showing that experience-related buys lead to more happiness for the consumer.

I get it. I can relate to it quite a bit too. My memories of backpacking through the west Texas desert with my parents just get better when we retell the stories. And while memories from my two trips to NYC to visit a friend have always made me happy, they became truly priceless when that friend passed away last year. Those experiences bring me more happiness than any material purchase I've ever made.

But the thing is, what exactly are we supposed to do with study results that say we'd be happier with a beach vacation than a new computer?

Study Findings Versus Real Life

Most of us buy material stuff all the time, certainly more often than a kayaking trip or a massage. (Unless you get daily massages, in which case my rhomboid muscles hate you.) For most people, it's not practical to spend the majority of their money on experiences.

Also, when we've covered these “buying happiness”-type studies here at GRS, several readers always point out that they own lots of stuff that makes them happy. And I can relate to that sentiment too. Although I try to lean toward the clutter-free side of what I call the Minimalist-Hoarder Spectrum, I'm sitting here surrounded by Stuff. I'm drinking coffee out of my pretty white coffee mug. Across from me is my beloved Nikon. I'm sitting in this house, the biggest purchase of my life.

Related >> When Less is More

And these purchases make me happy on a daily basis. I freaking love my little house, and we're still renovating it! There's literally scaffolding in my living room right now. Don't care; still love it. And I certainly wouldn't trade in my MacBook for a tropical island getaway (in part because I need it to afford tropical island getaways in the first place).

Related >> The Small-House Experiment

So how do you explain that, science?

Stuff and Experiences are Not Mutually Exclusive

The interesting thing about the Cornell study is that, unlike some of the previous studies, it dove into the reasons experiences make us happier than stuff. Here are two reasons why experiential purchases lead to greater happiness:

  • People find it easier to make a decision to purchase an experience

  • We tend not to second-guess experiential purchases

But what about stuff that enables an experience?

For instance, my kitchen is full of material purchases — the countertops, the oven, the big farmhouse sink. And those things make it especially nice to cook in my kitchen every day. I finally have a big enough kitchen to invite people into it while I'm cooking, which makes family dinners a lot more fun. Another example is my aunt and uncle, who have a computer with a webcam so that they can Skype with their grandkids who live in Australia.

And sometimes material purchases aren't just nice-to-haves, they're pretty much necessities. “I bought Winning brand headgear, which is $300,” says Alexis Asher, a retired Golden Gloves State Champion. “It's very expensive for headgear, but it's the best protection and it makes me happy.”

And those kinds of purchases are pretty easy to make. It's a no-brainer for my aunt and uncle to have a computer and webcam setup, and they don't second-guess their decision to buy that in the least. And, obviously, Asher's purchase was an easy decision too. “I have no regrets because it keeps me safe,” she says. “The only time I've ever been knocked out was years ago when I sparred without headgear on.”

Related >> Why We Buy: The science of shopping

Where Experiences and Stuff Differ Most

Still, stuff that enables an experience has potential pitfalls.

One pitfall, according to the Cornell study, is that stuff can decrease happiness because things are easier to compare than experiences. So if you buy a laptop and then your neighbor gets a nicer model, it's much easier (and therefore more likely) that you'll compare her nice big screen with your smaller one and feel a little less happy with your purchase. Whereas, if you both took two different trips to Mexico, it's a little harder to compare the two. And comparison is the thief of joy, as the saying goes.

Another pitfall is that with stuff, we tend to do much more comparison shopping and deliberating and, when we pull the trigger and buy something, it's frustrating to later learn that a better option exists or that we could have gotten a better price. According to the study, we're less likely to feel that buyer's remorse with experiential purchases.

So to use our previous example, even if we buy a computer in order to Skype with family members, we're still more likely to ruminate on which computer to buy, to worry about getting the best deal, to feel regret if we find out that it went on sale the week after we bought it. And those things lower your happiness level, according to the researchers.

I've had a lot of personal experience with it as well. Usually, I simply tell myself that over-researching and second-guessing one stupid purchase is a total waste of my time and to get over it. There are bigger problems in the world, April. But that's probably not helpful advice to give, unless you happen to like beating yourself up about beating yourself up.

So how can we thwart our tendency to compare and ruminate?

Mitigating the Risk for Unhappiness

My feeling is that most people don't over-think the little purchases. It's the bigger ones that have the real potential to make us unhappy.

So for larger purchases that you're going back-and-forth over, a more practical approach than mentally beating yourself up is to start by making a list of your needs and requirements. What exactly do you need this computer to be able to do? Write it down.

Then, write down each model you're considering, and see how it compares to your list of needs. Does it meet your original list of requirements? Are there any drawbacks?

Finally, make the purchase, and hang on to the list. Stick it in a drawer or save it on your computer. That way, if you start second-guessing yourself or feel buyer's remorse, you can always take a look at your notes and know that, although your neighbor's computer is nice, you got what you needed and at the right price for your budget.

Also, if you often find yourself regretting purchases, buy from a place with a generous return policy whenever possible. And don't forget that a lot of retailers honor a new markdown on an item you bought last week. It never hurts to ask.

As with most of personal finance, “buying happiness” isn't so black and white. It's not as simple as Experience good, stuff bad. It's more like, over-thinking, second-guessing, and comparison bad.

And now that my language skills have degenerated into speaking caveman, I'll open it up to you. What's a materialistic purchase that makes you happy? What should someone do when they start to over-think and second-guess a purchase?

More about...Psychology

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Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
6 years ago

I like to consider myself a minimalist, but I’ll admit I LOVE my laptop and my sheets and my blender… ok, there’s a lot I love, but they’re all practical things that get used on a daily basis. It’s the other “stuff”, the tchochkes, that I have no tolerance for and would gladly trade for experiences.

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

You can buy happiness with money but you have to be aware of the future. Spending money now and being happy does not make sense if you’re not making provisions for the future. Good post, thanks for sharing.

Marie @ 4HWD
Marie @ 4HWD
6 years ago

We’ve been planning to buy a car or even a second hand car. It’s just one of a material thing that can make me and my family happy.

Paul in cAshburn
Paul in cAshburn
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie @ 4HWD

A wise man once told me “Buy a car you love, and drive it ’til the wheels fall off.” He lived in Detroit, and traded his car in every year for a new model. Over his 50+ years of driving experience he came to realize that buying a two-year old model saved him 20% or more – and he still had the full factory warranty for awhile. Nobody but you knows that you didn’t buy that car new. I’ve been driving my current car (S80 T6) for over nine years now, and I still smile every time I see it.… Read more »

Liam
Liam
7 months ago

Totally right! I buy at 4 years, less warranty but I buy head turning cars for cash and drive them into the ground. No payments, no interest but lots of fun and enjoyment. A car is a not an investment but a costly necessity so you might as well enjoy it!

AC
AC
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie @ 4HWD

I bought my used car in 2005 and still have it to this day. I love my car! I smile to when I see it. I love to wash and wax my car and making her shinny and new looking. I would never give my car up for a newer one. I would rather put the money into fixing her. 🙂

Beth
Beth
6 years ago

I like the balance in this post 🙂 World travel isn’t my thing, so I hate being hit over the head with the “you must travel to be happy” mantra. I love to learn and to work with my hands, so there are many different ways to spend on experiences.

I’ve always been a fan of the saying “having nothing around you that is neither useful nor beautiful”. It’s helped keep clutter out of my life. Still, I’ve made a few spending mistakes. I think we have to allow ourselves some errors — no one’s perfect! — and let go.

Money Saving
Money Saving
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Beth,

I’m in the same boat as you so to speak. Travel is fun, but I’m more of a stay put kinda guy.

Balance – all things in moderation – is the way to go.

Amy
Amy
6 years ago

Maybe another way of looking at this is that some of the stuff you purchase enhances or hinders your everyday living experience. It’s a really good experience to live in a house that you love. It’s a more pleasant experience to get chores and other daily tasks done (ex: cooking) when you have the right tools for the job. The stuff you bring into your life can either work harmoniously to help you achieve your goals/To Do list (in other words enhance your overall life experience) OR it can hinder you by cluttering up your space, and usurping monetary resources… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
6 years ago

I think that like most things it’s a spectrum with stuff on one end and experiences on the other. Yeah, I like some of my stuff (and especially stuff that enhances my experiences), but like someone else said, I don’t need lots of little knick-knacky things. I fall more on the experience end of the spectrum. Some people don’t. And, some people like more of the everyday experiences. Best example: I buy eco-friendly toilet paper and I was talking about it with some people. They wouldn’t *dream* of it because they enjoy the experience of soft toilet paper. I don’t… Read more »

Sam
Sam
6 years ago

Art makes me very happy and it is stuff. At this point in my life, I’m buying about a piece a year for which I save up. I just ordered $700+ in new shades, I am expecting that purchase to make me happy b/c it is one I’ve been delaying for years. I do find that waiting on things increases the happiness factor. This June we have been in our home for 10 years and I am finally, finally, replacing the super cheap and ugly $5 plastic blinds with new natural roman shades. As I posted on my blog, this… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
6 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Purchases I make for my home tend to make me happy as well. I live in my home (and work here) so I like it to be functional and pretty. It’s amazing how much happiness the new rugs in my kitchen are bringing me right now.

KSK
KSK
6 years ago
Reply to  Sam

As an artist, I thank you for purchasing original art!

My husband and I are visual people, and creating a beautiful environment to live in is important to us. So, I have no guilt feelings when I buy something to enhance the experience of living in our home. Our big purchase this year will be completely renovating our bathroom. It’s a project that’s 20+ years in the making. We’re looking forward to finally having a bathroom that functions well and one that is visually appealing.

AMW
AMW
6 years ago

I think when it comes to the “stuff” debate, some of it is personal priorities and some of it is by degrees. I like my 30″ television, I use it for entertainment. It is 15 years old. Some people can not believe that I would have something as outdated or as small as that, after all, it won’t even work with netflicks. However, a newer tv isn’t going to make me happier. And if I did buy a new one I would have forgo something else I wanted or go into debt and then I would be very unhappy because… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
6 years ago
Reply to  AMW

Our second TV is 20 years old. With wireless broadband, a router, and a roku, we can stream anything we want.

Meg
Meg
6 years ago
Reply to  AMW

You may just need an RF modulator for your tv if you want to hook up a Roku for netflix. The only type of input I can use on my old old tv is a co-ax cable – the modulator lets the tv and roku talk to each other.

Brian@ Debt Discipline
[email protected] Debt Discipline
6 years ago

We just purchased a puppy. It’s certainly a want type purchase but we wouldn’t change our decision at all. I do agree that experience type purchases make memories, but purchases like a home, computers etc may be necessities.

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
6 years ago

I think the ‘experiences are better’ advice should be qualified to add that doing an occasional and unique experience (which doesn’t have to be travel) will provide a lot of memories.

Most of us have a lot material items all the time, so they don’t seem to add much to our lives – even though they do.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

I can think of a few more reasons why many people associate experiences with a higher quality of happiness than stuff: – The knowledge, from even as far back as the point of purchase, that most stuff is replaceable and eventually will be replaced might create less of a personal/spiritual connection to the item. – Most material things will always be there (except for the “ limited, must have now, only 15,000 more left!” things…of course). Experiences are considered more fleeting, now or never dealies, which is why it might make it easier for people to “jump at the chance”… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago

One thing that’s helped me to mitigate the unhappiness risk is spending on the things I do every day. April actually wrote about this a couple of years ago, and it’s been incredibly helpful advice: “I used to be guilty of spending money on the life I thought I lived, rather than the life I was actually living.” So true. In the past, when I’d clothes shop, for instance, I’d buy fancy outfits and heels. But I don’t really go anywhere fancy, ever. I’m just not a fancy, heel-wearing gal. So when I’d see that stuff unused in my closet,… Read more »

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

Good article. I just wish you hadn’t capitalized stuff. It’s kind of pedantic and undermines your overall point, which is in many respects to argue for the value of “stuff”.

Fredrik von Oberhausen
Fredrik von Oberhausen
6 years ago

The only reason for why experiences are making people more happy is because they are more rare than buying stuff.

Imagine the inverse. You are always making experiences and almost never buying stuff. Would you then be happy to buy something or having another experience?

Actually this was the situation in the former eastern block. Either there was nothing to buy or they had no money so the only thing they did have was experiences. I doubt they were happier due to that.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

The problem with memories is that you can’t fill an empty plate with them.

And Dante Alighieri, who was a political exile, wrote that there is no greater misery than to remember happier times in times sorrow (he knew this first-hand).

Steak 2, Memories 0.

HKR
HKR
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

All I know is I’d rather have a happy memory to reflect on in a time of sorrow than a sad one.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  HKR

I’d rather have steak… Steak will sustain you through the sorrow! But seriously, I have a lot of good memories, but they are of little use in the present other than for a) the knowledge one can extract for them, b) they make a good subject of conversation, which makes the present more bearable during a conversation. But in and of themselves, I don’t know they make me “happy”. So I’ll doubt the surveys. E.g., if I’m on the road and have to eat the swill at McDonalds, thinking of what I ate in Paris isn’t going to improve the… Read more »

Katie
Katie
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

But buying steak is basically buying the experience of eating the steak . . . .

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Some might argue that buying a steak is buying the misery and coldhearted abuse of the cow…

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

@ Katie – of course! life is an experience. but I’m focused on the everyday meal, not a steak 5000 miles away a year ago which can no longer sustain me.

@ Honey – please don’t go there

HKR
HKR
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I suppose it may be better not to have any memories of good food while you’re eating slop, but given the context of a political exile and sorrow, I was thinking I would rather have good memories of friends and family and shared experiences than be condemned to a life with none. I suppose you could argue that if you didn’t have those things to regret then it wouldn’t matter that you were exiled. You might not even have had whatever passion drove you to get exiled in the first place without them, and then the point is moot. As… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

@HKR – yes, you’re right, but the thing is I didn’t say that only the present matters and one should act like a junkie. What I said is that we only live in the present. This we really can’t avoid, being stuck in time. We’re here now, and we’re informed by the past and we look forward to the future but life is just a succession of now after now after now. I mean, from the experiential point of view– we only experience the present. People who are stuck in the past are probably suffering from PTSD–and PTSD is not… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

hmmmm, I’m sure I get his POV. So it’s good to avoid happiness now in case you are miserable in the future? There was a time when my daughter was seriously sick and I was not sure she would pull through–something that would be beyond sad to me, but I’d rather have the experience of that love in my life for a short time and lose it, than never experience at all. However, I have heard people say they wished the opposite–that they never knew love at all than to hold it in their hand and have it steal their… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Phoenix– glad to hear your daughter recovered! You mean about Dante’s POV? The actual quote is in the Divine Comedy, the words are spoken by Francesca da Rimini who is in the 2nd circle of Hell for adultery– she and her lover get killed by a jealous husband. Not sure if Dante borrowed that loss/remembrance motif from Virgil, which I haven’t read (Virgil is Dante’s guide, and Francesca says to Dante that “his master” knows all about that), but Stoicism was in vogue during Virgil’s days, so who knows. I really don’t know about Virgil, sorry. But… The thing here,… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Thanks. She recovered; it lasted only a week, but I knew I was in trouble when I saw the pediatric nurses’ looks of pity when we were first admitted to the hospital. I was talking about Dante’s POV. But in reading your additional responses, perhaps it confuses me a bit too. I enjoy reading your eloquent statements. But I don’t know how to divorce the present from the past and future. When I hold my little girls, there is a part of soul that smiles because I simultaneously recall each of them as a baby and is contemplating how far… Read more »

Dave @ The New York Budget
Dave @ The New York Budget
6 years ago

The great thing about “stuff” is there are so many ways to get it for relatively cheap. Then, you have your thing, and if it actually provides value and positive experience to your life, then it enables happiness. If you find that you don’t use it or start to dislike it for whatever reason, you don’t feel as badly about getting rid of it, since you didn’t pay a whole lot for it. In terms of comparison, my initial reaction is to pity people with SUPER nice, new “stuff” and their inability to have saved that money or spent it… Read more »

Laraba
Laraba
6 years ago

I appreciated this post! I too have read those studies and thought — that’s not us! Also, “stuff” sometimes does translate to good memories and experiences, so it is all mixed together. We have 8 children under the age of 15, with another child on the way. It is really hard to put into WORDS how much WORK it often is to have “an experience” with the whole family. We do go on field trips and attend the occasional homeschool activity, but every time we take the kids anywhere, it takes mental and physical energy. So…the thought of an exciting… Read more »

katherine
katherine
6 years ago

I am “stuff” person. And I tend to like top-of-the line stuff. So I always have to buy it on sale, because it’s hard for me to spend full price on anything. I wear high end sunglasses that make me feel like a million bucks every single time I wear them. I have a car with seat warmers and satellite radio to make my commute more pleasant. I love good cashmere. Last weekend, while sitting at my kitchen table, I had a glass of red wine, good cheese, and a baguette that I dipped in olive oil and cracked pepper.… Read more »

mike
mike
6 years ago

This is a very individualized issue. Everybody has different things that make them happy. Personally knowing yourself is the best way to make sure your allocations of money are used properly to facilitate that happiness. Of course, identifying your weak areas is as important as knowing what makes you happy. For some people it may be the experiential and for others it may be stuff some of us view as a waste of money. Others may view it as things that enhance their life in a way that is meaningful for them. Still others want things that will save them… Read more »

Tiara
Tiara
6 years ago

Thank you for finally saying something positive about stuff! I have had all the travel I want, I prefer to buy things that I will enjoy every day like a great pair of shoes, a quality laptop, interesting books and fabulous perfume. My experiences are more on the cheap end – getting together for friends over coffee or inviting people over for dinner.

Mrs PoP
Mrs PoP
6 years ago

I think often the difference between “stuff” and “experience” is in how it is viewed by the purchaser – and actually the book “Happy Money” was quite helpful in clarifying this. Basically, material goods can be quite similar to more traditional experiential purchases in the level of happiness they bring if we treat them as experiences in our mind. Are you buying a book, or the experience of reading a book? Are you buying a hammock or the experience of lazy summer afternoons lounging under a tree? In the end, it’s what WE DO with “stuff” that really brings us… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
6 years ago

Most of my kitchen Stuff is what makes me the happiest. I have so many gadgets and while I don’t use *all* of them regularly, I do use the vast majority of them regularly.

I used to say my books made me the happiest, but I bought a Kindle about 6 months ago and now I just think how much bigger my living room would be/feel if it wasn’t stuffed to the gills. We have bookshelves in EVERY ROOM except the bathroom! And those have magazine racks 😉

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago

I’m not big on stuff for the sake of just having it, but I buy stuff to facilitate experiences all the time. I just made the second largest purchase I’ve ever made in my life (after my house). I spent about $60,000 on a racing sailboat. Believe me, I didn’t do that because I really want to park the boat on a trailer behind my house and look at it. I bought it because I want to go race sailboats. If you want to skipper a race boat, well, you need a boat. Maybe next year we can do this… Read more »

Annie
Annie
6 years ago

Thank you April for another great blog post!

A materialistic thing that has made me happy is my Theory suit. The blazer and pants cost me a couple hundred dollars but I wear it to work all the time (sometimes more than once a week!) and it always makes me feel like a real professional.

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

Great post – very thoughtful. I agree that some Stuff is just worth it – for instance, sometimes a hot coffee on a cold day makes me so happy!

Vanessa
Vanessa
6 years ago

The downside to experiences for me has been that I can never remember the details as clearly as I’d like. I went to a lot of concerts last year and had a great time at each one, but beyond that I don’t remember much else. You’re not allowed to take pics/video and souvenirs are overpriced, so I feel like I have nothing to show for the money I spent.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

I had brain damage at birth that limits my ability to form memories and retain them. For that reason, I prefer “stuff,” to which I can attach some memories.

I delight in getting my stuff cheap or for free.

Nicole
Nicole
6 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

Might I suggest you keep a blog or journal? I write one for myself and it’s been great as a tool to remember things, particularly experiences. I often go back and read about my past adventures and it brings me happiness every time.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
6 years ago

In a piece I wrote called “Frugal materialism,” I noted that some people think that frugality and materialism are the same thing. They’re not. Some people like to one-up others: “I survive with only 100 items total, therefore I am purer in my frugality than you.” While I *could* get by with relatively few things, I choose to keep some nonessentials that make me happy. There’s no need to keep a clay bowl my daughter made in elementary school, but I like seeing it. Too, I often detect a hint of snobbery in such discussions. “We have eight gazillion books… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
6 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I liked your article, Donna. You’re right that it’s about attitude toward stuff. I consider myself frugal, but I don’t have a desire to go the minimalism route. I do, however, take my time when making purchases to ensure I only buy things I know I’ll use and get enjoyment from so I do not regret the purchase later.

stellamarina
stellamarina
6 years ago

A sunday newspaper to read.
A little posy of flowers from my garden in my kitchen.
A radio, or now, a tablet with lots of talk radio stations to listen to.
A bicycle that I can ride around town and still feel the freedom of it that I felt when a child.
Long loved books.

Edward
Edward
6 years ago

Umm… I’m not sure I accept some of the logic here about what “happy” is. On your deathbed, are you really going to think about the MacBook you had in 2014 and just how incredible it was? Think back to the machine you were using 12 years ago. Do you even remember what it looks like? Sometimes, when I drink a lot of fluids and really have to go, having a pee feels very good. It makes me extremely happy to finally get to a bathroom. I *love* that bathroom. Noteworthy though? I think not. Brand new Betty Crocker hand… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago
Reply to  Edward

The “on your deathbed” thing really isn’t useful. On your deathbed you will likely be senile, or drugged up on enough painkillers that you can’t think anyway, or, even if you are alert, probably a lot more concerned about your own impending mortality than either your macbook or the trip you took to Mexico in 1994. If you *are* so aware, you may actually care a lot more about your MacBook, since you can still use it to talk to people and read things. Yes, your trip to Mexico is a better story than your MacBook, but here you are… Read more »

Ely
Ely
6 years ago

Yeah I hate all that deathbed crap. No one on their deathbed wishes they’d worked harder, or been better with money – because no one on their deathbed has to pay next month’s rent! It has no relevance to how you live your life.

I’m not gonna not buy a new computer because it will be old in 10 years. It makes my life better *now* – and for quite a chunk of those intervening years.

Crystal
Crystal
6 years ago

Material stuff makes us happy on an ongoing basis if it’s something that we appreciate and use frequently, or if it’s something that is attached to a great memory. If it doesn’t fit either of those categories, we only buy it if it’s needed and will not slow down any other goals.

Alcie
Alcie
6 years ago

Great post, April. I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the superiority claimed for experiences over stuff, because all of the experiences that I can recall that make me happy are utterly dependent on stuff. And in most cases better quality stuff leads to a better experience. The cheap thrift store backpack that sorta-kinda fit leads to a miserable backpacking trip, while the expensive, fitted especially to me in the store pack is a pleasure to wear and use. It makes my backpacking so much more enjoyable. I could give similar examples for the stuff used for biking or canoeing… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
6 years ago
Reply to  Alcie

This also led me to wonder what the line is between experiences and Stuff. My kitchen gadgets are technically stuff, but cooking and eating are experiences that it wouldn’t be possible to enjoy without them. My TV and various accessories are Stuff, but the hours I have spent watching Grey’s Anatomy or Star Trek make me feel like I am in the company of friends. To me, a well crafted TV show is an experience. My books are also Stuff, but they also represent hours experiencing worlds I would have access to no other way. Sometimes I stand in front… Read more »

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Many forms of travel are incredibly consumptive. Think of the food and resources people consume when they travel that they wouldn’t consume at home. To the travellers, it’s “oh, I only do this once in a while” — but when you’re the one running the hotel or cruise, you see the same waste day after day.

And in some countries, working conditions for staff are awful. We hear a lot in the news about sweatshops, but we don’t hear about the overworked and drastically underpaid person cleaning resort hotel rooms.

Ely
Ely
6 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I am a fangirl and my fangirl swag makes me happy. As much as I loved my trip to Cardiff, I don’t get to go there as often as I get to watch my DVDs, admire the art on my walls, wear my nerdy jewelery and dress up in my character costumes.
In a way, the stuff IS the experience. 🙂

marie
marie
6 years ago

My car is a purchase that makes me happy. I did go back and forth quite a bit and waited a long time to make the purchase, but I’ve had it for 6 months and I could not be happier. It has enabled me to visit my friends and family MUCH more frequently as most of them live in the country. It also gave me freedom and pride and that made me very happy. I’m sure that somebody who bought a very pricy car is not happier than I am with my little corolla. Another type of purchases that make… Read more »

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
6 years ago
Kasia
Kasia
6 years ago

Certain material purchases can lead to happy experiences. I love my Macbook (stuff), it’s the best little laptop I got and it makes me happy because I can write anywhere I want (experience). My camera was a little pricey (stuff) but it puts a smile on my face when I drive to the beach and take photos of the sunrise (experience). We recently purchased an outdoor setting and outdoor bbq (stuff) and not we spend time cooking and socialising with family and friends (experience). If you’re over-thinking or second-guessing a purchase it may suggest you don’t really need it. When… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
6 years ago

To quote Bernadette Peters’ character in The Jerk: I’m not gonna miss the money; I’m just gonna miss the stuff.

I don’t want (much more)stuff, but the stuff I have sure makes me comfortable and happy.

James@Finance Education
6 years ago

Very interesting topic about material stuff can make us happy or not. In my opinion real happiness comes from fulfilment of our real requirements with time. As we maintain our day to day life in personal and professional sector we must have to fulfil our all needs. We have to also make balance in our requirement with our saving that means not to make ourselves happy by borrowing tensions from others in different ways for long term or short term basis.  One thing we must have to remember that no equipment is invented for measurement of real happiness. And… Read more »

James P
James P
6 years ago

I think this is different for everyone. Personally, I don’t get true happiness from material things, only temporary pleasure, but I’m sure there are people for whom buying things makes them happy.

Sandi_k
Sandi_k
6 years ago

We like Stuff and Experiences. And we’re choosy about each. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. We had an inexpensive house in an urban area for 20 years. It “made sense”. It was “frugal.” It was “affordable”. And we were unhappy there for the last 8 years or so, due to crime, crowding, and its urbanity. We moved out to the country, leading to a commute of tripled the time and mileage, and we’re happier. It doesn’t “make sense” to many people we talk to. It was certainly more expensive. And the gas and commute costs make it not… Read more »

That Career Girl
That Career Girl
6 years ago

Practical things which will improve my quality of life (rather than things I just want and than automatically realise I didn’t need) make me happy. Also, buying said practical things at a bargain price makes me super happy 🙂

adriano
adriano
6 years ago

I’d argue that, it’s more likely to buy the wrong stuff than it’s to buy the wrong experience. Can you really pick out the product you want from a store or a catalogue? Sure, the closest thing you find is almost right, but you will not modify it. It has a fixed shape, pattern, color, style and quality. When you buy an experience, the closest thing for sale, will be shaped to what you want, expect and like. You choose how you see, and feel about, the experience. I don’t think it’s possible to experience anything without shaping the experience… Read more »

PB
PB
6 years ago

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that for stuff, it’s quality and not quantity that matters. If I have stuff, it better be GOOD stuff, and not just clutter. Clutter makes me unhappy.

And the nice thing about experiences, as opposed to stuff, is that generally speaking it is not necessary to dust them off or otherwise maintain them …

Ryan
Ryan
6 years ago

Well timed article that I enjoyed, thanks. My wife and I are in our early 30’s and have a goal to get a van to live in and travel for a while throughout the US. We realized that we can’t do that until we get a van paid off so we finally found a VERY good deal on a used one that is only 3 years old and 1/3 of the original cost and it came with a very thorough maintenance log. Yesterday we purchased it and we feel like we are pretty crazy for doing it but in two… Read more »

Glenn
Glenn
6 years ago

I tend to have more stuff than I need and i find the clutter is distracting. However when I need that thing that is tucked in that corner it is great to have it around. I use the one year rule, if I have not used it.

On the material side I spend on things that create experinces. Camping gear, bikes, good travel gear, a good truck for road trips. I keep clothing and meals to a minimum but tend to save up for toys that create experinces.

Marti
Marti
5 years ago

One of the most important purchases of my life has been my pet. I am always happy to come home and there is my special companion. When I travel, I always have my pet friend to share the miles. And when I’m feeling lonely, there’s my pet to cheer me up. Laziness is never part of a pet owner’s routine because you are responsible for feeding, exercising, grooming, and caring for your pet.

And then… there’s all the stuff you can buy for your pet… heh heh!

Comment
Comment
5 years ago

Awesome comments, I definitely believe in spending extra for quality 1. Last Longer 2. If it’s clothes they fit 3. If it’s a Car won’t have to work and spend money on the thing… 4. Looks better Interms of experiences I have had a lot of great experiences in relationships in the past but I get sad because they didn’t last, I want long lasting happiness with my next partner more like what I have with some of my old friends, I think everyone in life has struggles, I’ll get the in there in the end, I’ll just find ways… Read more »

Crystal
Crystal
4 months ago

I guess a part of the comparing is competitiveness. I’ve never felt bad about what I bought versus what anyone else might have, but I’m not a competitive person. What I bought fit my needs and even some of my wants, so I’m happy I got the right item for me. It’s when I shop online and the product description is misleading that I find myself not as happy, but then I bought it because of the product description. And also of course because I needed or wanted it.

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