I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but this year was an exception. At the beginning of the year, I decided to quit my job and finish my Master’s degree. After finishing one of my exams last December, I decided the next step was to continue my education on a full-time basis.
I saved up enough money to cover my school fees with some leftover cash to travel as well. This year was going to be different.
Instead of spending my lunch hour shopping online, I stopped spending money on material things and decided to buy experiences instead.
While you are alive collect moments not things, earn respect not money and enjoy love not luxuries. – Aarti Khurana
At first, I thought it would be difficult to go a year without buying material things since I used to shop online or at the mall on a weekly basis. However, once I started collecting more moments, I haven’t felt a need to buy material items.
What I consider to be material items are tangible things that are “wants” (rather than needs). This includes excess clothes, excess shoes, excess handbags, jewelry and accessories, technology gadgets, excess home decor, excess books, and so on.
I chose to buy experiences which include going to the symphony, seeing a theatre performance, attending a community sports event, rocking out at a concert, travelling to a new destination, hiking, painting, meditating, volunteering, exercising, and so on.
Here are some reasons why you should collect moments not things.
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1. It’s more fun to look forward to an experience than a thing
You may initially feel excited when you first order the latest technology gadget, but that excitement quickly turns into feelings of impatience as you wait for it to finally arrive.
Unlike waiting for a material item, waiting for an experience (like a vacation) elicits pleasant feelings of anticipation. If you book your trip in advance, you tend to have more pleasant feelings and excitement the closer you get to your departure date.
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2. Moments are priceless
We tend to put values on what we buy such as a new car, which we may value at $30,000. However when it comes to experiences, it becomes harder to put a numerical value on memories.
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3. Experiences help us learn about ourselves
If you’ve ever taken a solo trip or walked through a nature trail before, this has given you time to reflect and become self-aware.
Experiences allow us to learn about what we like and what we don’t like. They teach us how to face and even conquer our fears. Experiences can test us at times, and show us what we are capable of accomplishing.
Hiking up to the top of a mountain, for example, can test your endurance. Rock climbing or bungee jumping may help you conquer a fear of heights. Exploring a non-English speaking country can help you become more patient.
4. Moments allows us to bond with others
Buying an experience helps create a social connection with others.
When traveling, it’s easy to create a bond with other tourists or locals by engaging in conversation. If you attend a concert, you are in a venue full of other people enjoying the same music as you. Being closer to other people tends to make us happier.
5. Experiences create lasting stories
I love hearing stories about people’s travels and adventures because to me, it makes for enjoyable listening. I think most of us can agree that we prefer to hear about what someone did over the weekend as opposed to what purchases they may have made.
Even if an experience is not enjoyable at the time, it can still become a good story in the end.
I remember when I arrived in Venice, it rained the entire first day. I was so bummed, but rather than stay at the hotel, I went out and explored the empty streets. I look back on this now and am happy I made the most of that day.
6. Moments are fleeting
Constantly being exposed to our material items can cause us to appreciate them less. No matter how exciting an initial material purchase might be, it eventually becomes part of the background.
Experiences tend to be brief, but the memories from these moments can last a lifetime. I still talk about and remember fondly vacations or concerts I’ve attended in the past. I can happily share these memories with others around me today.
7. Moments are a part of your identity
Having a material item doesn’t contribute to who you are as much as your experiences do. Experiences are the sum of your identity.
Whether you’ve learned how to speak another language, ran a marathon, climbed a mountain, or walked across San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge — those moments add to your identity in a way that cannot be matched by a material item.
8. Each experience is unique
You may decide to buy a look-a-like Prada bag from H&M or Zara. However, when you meet up later that night for drinks with friends, you may see one of your friends carrying the real Prada bag.
Naturally, she has the nicer bag because it’s the real thing. Comparisons of material items are easy to do and can create feelings of unhappiness.
Each experience, on the other hand, is unique to the individual experiencing it. Whether your neighbor is taking a luxury Caribbean cruise while you decide to have a staycation at home — neither experience is better than the other. What matters most is the people you are with and how you are making the most of your moments.
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9. Material things tend to get boring quickly
Let’s say you just bought the latest technology gadget and you’re excited to play with it and tell all your friends. By the next week, that excitement may have dropped down a notch, and within a few months, that new technology gadget becomes part of the furniture.
It loses its initial luster and you may already have your eye on the next gadget that’s available on the market.
If you signed up for a series of dance classes, each class becomes a novelty experience. The fleeting nature of experiences may prevent you from feeling bored.
10. Buying experiences makes us happier than buying things
Points 1-9 encompass the reasons of how buying experiences can lead us to happiness. However, many people already know this but prefer to spend their money on material items instead of experiences.
This may be because people like to utilize their material purchases as a show of status or career success to others. Instead of thinking these items will buy us happiness, trying to keep up with the “Joneses” can actually make us feel worse.
We tend not to readily think of experiences in terms of social comparisons like the way we regard material possessions. As mentioned in point #8, each moment is unique to the individual experiencing it. Money can’t buy you happiness, but buying an experience could be the answer.
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