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(Don’t) Buy Experiences, Not Things


Here we are on the verge of another annual shopping season. It’s a great time to rethink your spending habits.  Some big-time quality of life gurus like to tell us to Buy Experiences, Not Things!  Because… wait for it… here it comes… it’ll make you happier! (It won’t)

OK, that’s perhaps the most ridiculous thing you’ll ever hear from a serious-sounding person.  Not only does it make no sense, but it flies in the face of freedom.

Frugal living lovers prefer to keep their money.  If you want true happiness, a better route is to just build a high quality of life.  You don’t have to buy experiences OR things to do that.

What Is An Experience?

Buy Experiences, Not Things!  Wait a minute, how the hell are you supposed to tell the difference, anyway?  Hard as I try, I can’t think of too many things that are not BOTH a thing AND an experience.

Let’s see… coffee at your favorite coffee shop in the morning… experience or thing?  A new cellphone with some of the latest features? Even a new outfit that you’re going to wear to a party? All of these are things that people buy for the experiences that they invoke. Is it OK to buy these things because they contain experiences too?

Are Things Inferior?

Buy Experiences, Not Things – because things are supposedly inferior?  But is it so bad to spend your hard earned money on things that contain no experiences at all?

How about a paperclip!  That’s about as close to a “thing” that I can think of at the moment, that really does contain no experience.

When you buy paperclips, it’s probably not for any sort of experience they invoke – it’s just a thing that you need. I mean, you’re probably also not going to splurge on paperclips, amiright?  If you buy paperclips, it’s probably because you actually need paperclips.  That sounds to me like the right kind of purchase that frugal lovers encourage.  Separate your wants from your needs, and buy what you need.

If you buy paperclips, it’s probably not a frivolous splurge

It sounds to me like the better advice might be: Buy Things, Not Experiences!

What Makes You Happy?

Buy Experiences, Not Things – because they say it makes you happy!  Hold on a minute, while I throw up a little bit inside.  Because it’s news to me that buying shit makes you happy.  Yes, of course, there is a short term rush you get when you buy something.  Dopamine feels damn good!

But, it doesn’t last.  The things (or experiences) that you buy may generate a temporary surge of good feelings as you ride the dopamine.  But, if you want those feelings to last, you have to whip out that credit card again and again and again.  It is an endless cycle that doesn’t lead to a good place.

True happiness does not come from buying experiences or things.  It comes from building a high quality of life.

A High Quality of Life

Happiness is a high quality of life.  It requires certain basic conditions, which are accessible to nearly everyone.  Here are the basic things we need to attain a long-term, lasting happiness (according to me):

  1. Good Health
  2. A Reliable Source of Good Food
  3. Shelter
  4. A Purpose
  5. A Few Close Relationships
  6. Be A Valued Part Of A Community
  7. Access to the Great Outdoors
  8. Some Physical Activity

If you don’t have those things, work on getting them.  If you do, be thankful that you have everything you could possibly need to be happy.  And if you are still not happy, going out and buying a bunch of things (or experiences) isn’t going to make much difference – at least not for more than a few minutes.

Related Content – What Makes You Happy?

These conditions that can create happiness generally don’t require much money.  Perhaps good health does, from time to time.  And a shelter certainly isn’t free.  But my point is that spending money is not the road to happiness, whether you buy experiences or things.

Your Urge to Splurge

Buy Experiences, Not Things!  I think that saying is really trying to tell us how to splurge.  The reason you enjoy coffee at your favorite coffee shop is primarily because of the experience.  The reason you love buying a new cellphone or a new car is mostly for the experiences it contains.  Experiences are what drive splurges.  The experience is the best part, not the thing.

I say it’s OK to splurge. You can’t deny the urge. But constant repetitive splurging on experiences does not lead to lasting happiness.  It only leads to more and more extravagant splurging.

Keep Your Money And Your Freedom

Buy Experiences, Not Things!  I’m convinced this saying was created by some marketing executive that was just trying to sell you something. Encouraging us to buy things in order to achieve happiness is downright sad. If you think buying experiences (or things) is going to lead to happiness, you’ve been hoodwinked by a slick salesman.

How about let’s stop centering our entire universe around consumerism, and get on with building a high quality of life instead.

If you keep your money and enjoy time and experiences with your friends and family, you will be one step closer to financial freedom.  Spend your money on yourself by saving and investing.  Jack up your savings rate and your freedom rate along with it.

Happy shopping season!

Jojo Bobo

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