7 Reasons Why Spending Money on Experiences Makes Us Happier

by | Aug 22, 2019 | Inspiration

Recently we’ve come to realise that while money certainly can’t buy you things like good health or add another year onto your lifespan, it can – in an odd and roundabout way,  buy you happiness.

Before you disagree, just think about it. Have you ever spent money on front row seats to catch your favourite bands live? How about splurging on an exotic beach holiday? Or getting potentially life-changing medical treatment and medicine? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, we want you to try and recall the feeling you had when you experienced those moments. The thrill, the euphoria, the absolute, face-aching grins you wore at the end of the day when you had a good time or were able to finally do something that you thought you couldn’t. Isn’t that a kind of happiness that was made possible by money?

Mull it over for a little bit as we go on to talk about the 7 reasons why spending money on experiences makes us happier.

You’re never happy over things in the long run.

How many of you have experienced this kind of situation – You’ve been eyeing a new car or phone or even a gorgeous set of fine china plates. You want it – and badly! So you work and save and dream until one fine day, you’ve saved up enough to buy your desired items. 

You’re feeling ecstatic – almost on top of the world as you drive around in style, show off your new phone to friends or host elaborate dinner parties to showcase your new plates! Everything is great and wonderful and you’re feeling so, so happy… at least for a little while.

And then suddenly the car you’ve bought is just a car. The phone is just like any phone and the fine china plates are stored away, never to see the light of day again until the next big function. Your excitement wanes and your happiness over having those items? All but gone. 

According to research done by Dr Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation; 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.”

If you have any friends who took psychology as their major, they would tell you that this type of feeling is called “hedonic adaptation.” In other words, the excitement of that new car, a new phone or that new fine china set will quickly fade into the background as they become a part of our day to day lives. Which you know, is mildly disappointing, to say the least!

Experiences on the other hand – things like travelling, going to a concert or trying out a new bubble tea place, becomes a part of our identity; which in turn, brings us a greater deal of satisfaction and happiness.

Dr Gilovich also goes on to say that; “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” which is a fancy way of saying – you can really like your material things. You may even think that those things are part of your identity. But in fact, those things – like your car, phone of fine china set are actually separated from you as a person. 

In comparison, the things that you’ve experienced; the memories and skills that you have gained – those are the things that make up your identity and are an actual part of who you are. As famously quoted by B.J. Neblett; 

“We are the sum total of our experiences.”

So in order to achieve happiness, we’ve got to look beyond the fancy phones and suped-up car. Try something new and exciting like bungee jumping in New Zealand, cage diving with sharks in South Australia or even going to your nearest theme park with your friends. Those happy memories and experiences will have you grinning every time you think about them, and if you would like to remember as many details as possible, go that extra mile take loads of photos and print them out in the form of photo books or prints that you can enjoy every day. 

Your experiences define your purpose & passions.

Don’t you think that your day to day activities would be better spent if you’re able to purposely live your life based on your passion instead of your material things? 

Think of it this way. Let’s say that your favourite musician of all-time is Queen Bea, the illustrious wonder woman, Beyoncé. Even though you have all of her albums, downloaded, all her tracks on iTunes or Spotify and own some of her merchandise, like t-shirts, bags, phone cases, poster or headgear; can any of those (while admittedly, still pretty awesome) things, top seeing her perform live in concert? 

Probably not. 

In fact, we’re pretty sure that if someone were to come up to you right now and offered you front-row tickets to Beyoncé’s next show in exchange for all of your Beyoncé merchandise, you would probably take them up on that offer so fast that you’d be half-way to the venue before the person had finished collecting all your memorabilia. 

Plus, even if you did pawn off all your merchandise, you can still preserve your epic concert moment by using sites like Pixajoy to create your own merch; ones that are actually based on your individual experience and using the photos you took from the event.

The best thing about it? You’ll have a feeling of attachment to your personalised prints and posters from the show and no one else will have the exact same images as you; making it one of a kind! 

You can’t build social relationships off of things.

We’re paraphrasing Dr Gilovich when we say that the experience things directly with other people and when that moment’s gone, the experience become a story that you and the other person share with each other. 

Like for example, you and your cousins decide to go out camping for a week without either of your parents. You have a great time; going hiking, staring up at a clear night sky and almost setting your tent on fire trying to make s’mores. You even take dozens of photos to remember this moment by – plus you can print out the photos in the form of photo books or photo prints to give to your cousins later on; just a small token so that neither of you will ever forget all the adventures you’ve had during the trip.

By the time you come home, your experiences with your cousins will become something that you both can relive in great detail. Your parents, on the other hand, will not be privy to the new shared bond between you and your cousins.

Sure they’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures, but since they didn’t experience it first hand, they don’t share the same enthusiasm as either you or your cousins when you’re recalling a fond memory.

So in other words, the experience of going camping together with your cousins has helped to elevate your relationship – building a stronger bond than any material item can even hope to achieve.

Experiences are just more memorable.

While experiences are designed to be a momentary and fleeting thing, they also provide us with a high level of motivation, insatiable want and stunning memorability due to delayed gratification – or in other words, anticipation. Again, let’s revisit the situation with Queen Bea, Beyoncé. 

You hear she’s coming to the country to perform one of her spectacular shows; so like a good little fan, you mark down the date of the show in your personalised calendar. In fact, you don’t just mark down the date for the show, you also mark down when the tickets go on sale and when Queen Bae is scheduled to arrive in the country – maybe you’ll even pop by the airport to see if you can catch a glimpse of her before the big show!

As you’re crossing out the days in anticipation, you daydream about the very moment where you can start purchasing tickets and then attending the show once you’re tickets have been secured. When you finally get to go to the show, the whole process has morphed into one whole experience in lieu of just a singular moment.

Your experiences can introduce you to a whole new world.

Unlike physical items, experiences can introduce you to a whole new perspective, teach you life lessons and most importantly, they can also teach you the importance of gratitude. Take travelling, for example. If you live in Malaysia and decided to travel overseas to countries like Japan, Australia or even the UK, you may start to realise the pros and cons of living in Malaysia.

Despite the melting pot of cultures, great food and beautiful, fun-filled places that make Malaysia a unique and fun place to live, you can’t help but reminisce about all the beautiful sceneries you’ve seen overseas.

When you have the experience of visiting the majestic castles of Japan, seeing the grandeur of the sandstone monolith that is Uluru in Australia or being a part of the crowd in the bustling city streets of London, you tend to savour these moments more than when it comes to purchasing the latest gadgets or gizmos.

They’re the kind of scenes and moments that you would be eager captured on your phone or cameras and would be more than happy to print out – maybe even turn them into personalised travel photo books so that you’ll have something to remember your trip by that doesn’t consist of bland, overpriced fridge magnets.

You may even come to realise that despite the cultural differences, the experience of travelling overseas and getting to know more about cultures and customs that differ from your own has taught you to be more thoughtful, compassionate, humble, or grateful.

Like an Episode of Hoarders – Are you Stuffocating?

Do you have a room or rooms in your house that just seems to be full of things that you kept or bought but don’t actually need? Like for example, a set of exercise equipment that seems to be gathering dust or used as a coat rack. Or maybe you have tons of little jars or knick-knacks that you thought were cute but don’t really go with the rest of your decor. 

If the answer is yes, then you’re probably experiencing a case of stuffocation, right this very instant. All that build-up of stuff and things throughout the years that you don’t actually have a need or use for can be extremely suffocating. Especially if you live in a smaller home.

In fact, it has also been said that the abundance of junk in one’s home can actually do harm to your mental health. The reason for this is because when our homes are filled with junk and clutter it increases our levels of stress. 

Which is not a good feeling, especially when you’ve come home from a tiring day at work. Therefore it is advised that you clean up and get rid of anything that doesn’t hold a purpose or value to you. Or as Marie Kondo says; only keep the things that ‘spark joy’ in you. And most often than not, a lot of these ‘spark joy’ moments are the things that are tied to experience; like family albums, photos or gifts from loved ones who may no longer be in this world with us. 

Whatever you have now, there’s bound to be someone with something better.

Human beings have this odd tendency of trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. In short, we easily get envious of another person’s belongings and try hard to match up or overtake them in terms of material goods in order to feel good about ourselves.

Oh, Sarah got a new Birkin bag? I’ll have to go shopping for one now, too!

What’s that? James got a new gaming console? No way, I’ll get an even better model!

What?! Crystal got a car for her birthday?! No fair! I want one too!

According to Dr Gilovich, this tendency is more pronounced when it comes to material goods than for experiential purchases, The reason for this could be because it is a whole lot easier to feature-compare material items rather than experiences.

According to research from Ryan Howell and Graham Hill,

“It certainly bothers us if we’re on a vacation and we 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.”

In other words, when you’re spending your money on experiences, it can decrease your overall envious behaviour, which means that you’ll ultimately be able to lead a healthier and happier life in the end.

So, what makes you happier? Money or experiences? You decide. And if you just so happened to pick experience, remember that with Pixajoy,  you can preserve your most cherished moments by turning into gorgeous photo books, prints, and more and making them a part of your daily life.

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