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Buying Happiness: Why You Should Accumulate Experiences Over Possessions

Picture of Randall E. White

Randall E. White

Achieve long-term happiness and contentment by accumulating memorable experiences over possessions.

It’s an innate human condition to search for self-fulfillment and experience true happiness in our lives. As long as civilization has existed, the question of how to achieve this has remained somewhat elusive. Can money buy happiness? Well, in some ways it may. In this article, we’ll look at how accumulating experiences over possessions can have a significant impact on your happiness.

Does Having Possessions Make Us Happy?

There are certainly times in our lives when we believe that owning that particularly attractive item will bring us happiness. And often it does – for a little while. Acquiring whatever ‘thing’ that has attracted you is often associated with an increase in dopamine in the brain. It’s that

feel-good response our brains send us – even if temporary – that makes the act of buying so rewarding. Typically, that feeling is fast to fade, because material items aren’t associated with long-term contentment. We’ll dig into that a bit more below.

The Dynamic Effect of Accumulating Experiences Over Possessions

Experiences shape our very being. Possessions simply don’t have the same effect. If you strive for something that adds to contentment and happiness that lasts, you may want to choose experiences over possessions.

The effects of experiences over possessions can be positively life-changing. They open our eyes to the wonders of the world, and sometimes to the way that we see ourselves. Experiences have the power to teach and allow us to have feelings about what we are seeing or engaging with. When you choose to invest in experiences where you can bring others along, you expand the impact and meaning for both you and those who are with you. This can give you lasting shared memories.

The truth is, we are shaped by our experiences. Every place that we’ve visited, everything we’ve done, and all that we’ve seen throughout our lifetimes builds slowly over time to make us who we are. Although we may feel attached to a possession that we believe reflects our identity, that object is just that, a reflection. It is not internalized. However, experiences are internalized. They become part of our memories, eliciting feelings and often altering our view of the world around us.

SEE ALSO: Retirement Planning for Couples: Steps for Success

What Does This Mean for You?

When you think about what you spend your money on, and the return you’re getting from that purchase, consider the effect that your experiences have had on you. You’ll likely find your choice of experiences over possessions has provided enrichment and has contributed to your personal growth. Some studies show that experiential purchases such as spending time with the people we care about, traveling, or pursuing activities that interest us enhance our sense of self and happiness more than those who choose to spend their money on possessions.

Research on the topic of spending on experiences over possessions shows that the effect of experiences leads to more enduring happiness. This effect is cumulative in respect to the fact

that there is often a build-up of excitement as you wait for the experience, and then the actual enjoyment that it brings. This tends to produce more happiness in the long-term than the anticipation of a possession (which can actually cause more impatience than anticipation). So, knowing all this, will you begin to be more intentional about your spending?

SEE ALSO: Navigating Financial Stress During Life Transitions

Share the Joy and Maximize the Power of the Experiences Over Possessions

As already mentioned, the kinds of experiences that tend to have the greatest impact are those that we share with others. Think about some of the things that you enjoy doing, such as fishing or watching movies. While participating in these experiences alone may bring you happiness, having people that you care about join you strengthens your relationship with them and creates shared and lasting memories. Because of this, the impact endures.

Final Thoughts on Why You Should Accumulate Experiences Over Possessions

We hope that this article has provided some insight into how to achieve long-term happiness by investing in experiences. Possessions aren’t a bad thing, but being intentional about how you spend your money goes beyond the financial. Keep in mind that there are opportunities for long-term contentment attached to your financial decisions. Buying the most recently hyped tech gadget may provide you with a good feeling – but it will likely be fleeting. However, think about the last destination family gathering you enjoyed or the last time you traveled with a loved one. Reflecting on these experiences probably brings back the feelings of joy and wonder you experienced, and more to the point, with the people you were with.

At TriCapital Wealth Management we pride ourselves on being a trusted partner on your financial journey. As a fiduciary our team is committed to acting in your best interest, providing objective advice, and maintaining the highest ethical standards. Contact us today to find out how we can help you achieve your financial goals and dreams.

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