I enjoy baseball and I like cheering for the hometown team. So my son and I decided to attend an evening of postseason baseball this week when the Arizona Diamondbacks hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If you follow baseball, you know the Diamondbacks lost the game… and the series… and their season ended that night. In that regard, the night was a bummer. But in every other way, the evening was close to perfect.
The crowd was boisterous. The weather was amazing. The food was delicious. And the conversation was stellar.
We make choices every day with our financial resources. But this particular night of baseball was a helpful reminder to me that experiences are almost always a better investment than things.
Consider the reasons:
Experiences result in greater happiness. According to research, experiences result in longer-lasting happiness than material possessions. This is the case for several reasons (including some listed below). But in the article provided, the driving argument is that humans quickly adapt to their external surroundings. As a result, the happiness provided by new material possessions is short-lived. Over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they buy decreases, whereas their satisfaction with experiences over time increases.
Experiences provide better memories. One reason I enjoy baseball so much, is undoubtedly, because of the many memories I have watching it with my father. Growing up in South Dakota, an annual trip with the family to watch the Minnesota Twins play was a highlight of summer. Decades later, I look back on those moments with great joy and fondness. I remember them far better than almost any of the physical gifts I received as a child.
Experiences result in less clutter. Most physical possessions eventually become a burden on our lives. They take up physical space in our homes and mental space in our minds. They require care, attention, maintenance, organization. Experiences, on the other hand, are accompanied with little to no physical baggage. The only thing I brought home with me from the game were a few photos on my phone.
Experiences provide greater opportunity to connect with other people. This is the nature of experiencing things with others. Because we enjoy time together around a common purpose and activity for an extended period of time, we are afforded numerous opportunities to talk and connect with one another. My son enjoyed the game on the field, so did I. But I also enjoyed the opportunity to simply talk and connect about school and sports and friendships.
Experiences result in greater mindfulness. In 2010, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert published an important study in Science magazine. Their research concluded that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” And the greater a person’s ability to “stay present” in a given moment, the greater happiness they experience during and after. Experiences provide greater opportunity in this regard. In fact, to discover more helpful techniques about how to stay present in the experiences of life, read How to Make Good Moments Last Longer by Allison Niebes-Davis, PhD.
Experiences result in less comparison with others. According to research done by Ryan T. Howell and Graham Hill, another significant reason experiences result in more happiness than material possessions is because experiences result in less comparison with others. Or, as they put it, “It’s easier to feature-compare material goods (how many carats is your ring? how fast is your laptop’s CPU?) than experiences. And since it’s easier to compare, people do so.” This doesn’t mean, of course, that comparisons don’t still occur at events (“I wish I had that guy’s seats!”). But overall, both during and after, we are less inclined to compare with others the experiences we enjoy than the material possessions we own.
When we first began pursuing minimalism nine years ago, I remember asking myself what might I begin to do with the newfound benefits of owning less. If we were no longer purchasing, pursuing, and caring for excess possessions in life, what might we do with the excess money, time, and energy?
Over the years, we’ve been able to do a lot. But enjoying memorable experiences together as a family is certainly near the top of the list of my favorite.
Compared to buying more things, I’ll take enjoying memorable experiences any day. Even if my team did lose on Monday night.
Experiences can be cheap, not necessarily camping trips or vacations. I grew up in Washington, DC area and I now live in Pennsylvania. Every time I return to DC suburbs, we always go for a ride on GW Parkway. It is nostalgic. I could be in a jalopy, but doesn’t matter, the views and memories from driving under the majestic green trees in summer always gets to me.