Better Ways to Spend

I was intrigued by a book review in the weekly magazine The Economist, since the book in question delivers the same message that I have been telling my clients: spend your money on experiences, not things.

According to “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending”, by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, behavioral research indicates that the excitement brought on by material purchases wears off quickly.  A much better strategy, the review states, is “to spend money on experiences, like interesting trips, unique meals, or even going to the cinema.  These purchases often become more valuable with time — as stories or memories — particularly if they involve feeling more connected to others.”

Here’s how I’ve experienced this.  Have you ever suffered fatigue from bringing a new item into your house?  When we are in the store, or shopping on-line, we don’t always think through what it would mean to own this item: where to keep it, how to maintain it, what to do with it when something goes wrong, what do with the item it replaces.  No matter how good an idea it seemed at the time of purchase, the likelihood of buyer remorse is higher than we ever anticipate.

On the other hand, when I spend money on an experience — such as going to the theatre, or visiting a museum — even a not-so-good experience can turn into a great memory because it is shared with someone else.  It becomes something to talk about with that person in the years that follow.  We’ll say, “Remember when we saw that awful play?” and then laugh about it, even regaling other friends about its awfulness.  It’s a bonding experience.

This is an important distinction to remember when shopping for gifts.  Splurge for the experience rather than the thing.

Here’s the link to the Economist book review in case you want to read more about this fascinating book, which includes tips to “get the most happiness bang from your buck”.

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