What gives you more happiness and satisfaction in the long term – buying possessions or experiences?
I was faced with this dilemma last week as I was planning for a trip abroad. Having gone for consecutive international trips last two years, there was a thought in my mind – ‘what if I spend the money on buying something for home instead of a week’s trip abroad.’
Logically, isn’t it better to spend money on material things than experiences.
Material possessions have longevity. Say you buy a 50 inch TV and a BOSE home music system with the money you would have spent for an international trip and you can possibly enjoy this everyday for many numbers of years. You see more value in this because of its durability. Also there is a physical evidence of the purchase you made which reiterates your smart decision. Not only you but the whole family can enjoy the possession. Overall, makes lot of sense.
Experiences on the other hand is perishable – its time bound. You go for a holiday for a week or two – once the holiday is done the experience is gone. You cannot share you experience with anyone. Also the only physical proof of the experience would be in form of some pictures or videos. It can only be enjoyed by those who are actually part of the experience. The feeling is difficult to express . Tough to justify the huge spends.
However if I look back in life, it makes me realize that surprisingly it’s the ‘experiences’ that I remember fondly of and makes me happy rather than any of the material possessions (even though they were very important) I may have had.
Let me illustrate
Important Material Possessions I Can Think Of Right Now: My First Car, My First iPhone , My First House
Important Experiences I Can Think Of Right Now: My First Solo trip to Sikkim ( 5 days), Visit to Paris with my wife, First Trek in Wayanand
Do note that the money spent in both categories is almost the same
Car vs the Paris Visit, iPhone vs Sikkim Trip.
However without a doubt, for me it was the ‘experiences’ that have given me more happiness than any other material possession. Yes buying that car was memorable and important but somehow I feel that the solo trip to Sikkim was more special simply because had I had not gone then, would have missed taking a solo trip ever again in my life as a bachelor.
Why is this so? Why do experiences count more than possessions?
I am no expert but one of the most important reasons for this is because experiences grow in value over time.
The more I recall my Sikkim trip, even though a lot of time has passed, it makes me happier and content that I could accomplish it despite lot of restrictions. The fact that I could experience this and add value during the trip as an individual makes it special. So on and forth for every such experience. Be it the first music concert I attended, or teaching some poor kids at our neighboring pada (village).
Material Possessions on the other hand lose its significance over time. Yes I have a house. But now I want a bigger house. My phone has been changed thrice since the first time I purchased. So the joy keeps reducing over time
Some of the other reasons
You cannot compare experiences, while material possessions can always be compared and it invariably leads to valid source of negativity.
Experiences are truly personal. There are no words to express the feeling of happiness associated with a wonderful experience and since it cannot be quantified will always remain special.
Since experiences are time bound, it rarely has any negative connotations. Once the experience has been gained it is forever etched in the memory and mostly positively associated for the rest of your life. With a possession though since you are seeing it or dealing with it everyday it invariably leads to lower satisfaction.
Experience helps you grow as a person. It has the ability to change your set pattern and make you better individual.
The best part of experiences is that its not expensive. In fact most of them are free. One of my most memorable experiences, was trekking 3 kms at Wayanand which cost only Rs 150 ( USD 17) . It’s your decision to undertake the experiences is what’s important.
So the big learning is always try to gain more experiences as its an assured source of happiness and maybe the only thing you carry with you when you die – in the form of memories.