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Buy Experiences, Not Stuff (Part 1)

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Today is a big day.

College football starts. And as a Michigan State fan, I'm heading to the opening night game in a few hours.

I can't wait.

The tickets were not cheap, but going was a no-brainer (we will see if my wife agrees).

Because not only will I have fun tonight, but the memories of the event will stay with me for a long time.

I'm a big believer in spending money on experiences and not on stuff. Sure, you need to buy clothes and food, and I've spent way too much money on grills in the last 2 years. But if I have an extra $100 and am choosing between an event or a new gadget from Amazon that I want but don't really need, I'm choosing the event.

And the best part is I can tell my wife my choice is scientifically accurate! A lot of research has shown that experiences generate more happiness than stuff. I want to hit on two of them (one today and one tomorrow)

Experiences have a longer-lasting effect

You'd think that a physical object, which doesn't disappear, would bring happiness for a long time. While an experience, which literally disappears as soon as the event is done, would have a shorter emotional impact.

But research says that's not true.

The happiness an experience generates lasts a lot longer than the event itself. The increase in happiness starts with the anticipation of the event. And the energy and happiness you get from that can be even greater than the event itself.

I've been counting down to the football game for the last 2 weeks. I barely need coffee this morning, I'm so excited.

Additionally, the positive emotional responses last well after the event is done. Your memories continue to provide happiness for years or decades after events.

Conversely, physical objects lose their luster quickly. You notice a friend has the newer version and now your iPhone feels obsolete. Or you request the new "must have" item, relegating your previous one to the donation pile only months after you received it.

The positive feelings from an experience can last a lifetime. Most of the time, physical objects don't do that.

Think of an experience from 5 years ago that brought you happiness.

Now try and think of an object you bought 5 years ago that does the same.

Which is easier to think of?

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