Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things

Jay Cassano, a Brooklyn-based staff writer for Co.Exist wrote an interesting piece on how we spend our money. Most people spend their money on material items for numerous reasons, to show happy they are, how successful they are, or just in the pursuit of happiness. Cassano mentioned some research conducted at Cornell University by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, which stated that quite the opposite is true. We cannot deny that you feel happy every time you buy a new bag, or a new car but you adapt to those items. That happiness is temporary; if you want to acquire happiness, you should be spending your money on experiences not things. And I believe this is true. I don’t want to regurigate word for word what was said but here are the quotes from Dr. Thomas Gilovich, that I agreed with most.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. “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.”

And based on this research, I pulled out the reasons as to why (bullet form of course because we live in a society that has ADD and too many words scares us lol)

  • Money buys happiness, but only up to a point, we adapt to the material things we buy and they no longer provide happiness.
  • While the happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity.
  • One study conducted by Gilovich even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up
  • Shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá than someone who also happens to have bought a 4K TV.
  • You’re also much less prone to negatively compare your own experiences to someone else’s than you would with material purchases.
  • “The tendency of keeping up with the Joneses tends to be more pronounced for material goods than for experiential purchases,” says Gilovich. “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.”


“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.”

So in short, travel more, go to the movies more, have more outings with your friends, see plays, go skydiving, any activity really, chances are the high from discussing and sharing that experience with others will outlast you purchasing some new item.

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