“Studies” show that experiences produce more happiness (whatever that is) than material objects. But material objects can enhance those very experiences that enrich life the most.
We’ve all read the headlines. Milennials (and others) are moving away from accumulating things and favoring the accumulation of experiences. People report more satisfaction from experiences than material objects. Don’t buy a big house, go tiny and use your mobile home to travel to Puerto Rico to build housing for hurricane victims, thus doubling your experience tally (and consequent happiness).
As usual, Contrarian Saver is here to debunk this conventional wisdom… at least in part. I’ve spent a lifetime blowing cash on both experiences (exotic travel, expensive restaurant meals), and stuff (clothes, shoes, furnishings, it’s just too much to name). And I think I’ve gotten more satisfaction from the stuff. To the point where I want even more… even if it’s just to enhance those very experiences the bloggers are telling us deliver that elusive happiness.
In Praise of Stuff
Your experience may be different, but I have found several benefits of “stuff” that you can’t get from world travel or family reunions.
- You can share it: no one wants to see photos of your trip to Iceland. But they probably wouldn’t mind a ride in your Porsche or a free weekend in your vacation home.
- If you’re disappointed, you can sell it: no matter how much fun you had on that pasta tour in Italy, once you’ve experienced it, it’s gone forever. Yes it lives on in your memory, but those memories still won’t pay the rent. Buy stuff smart (e.g., investment grade art, watches, etc.), and you can always sell it when you need cash, or are just sick of it. And with the advent of re-sellers like The Real Real, you can do this with a lot more stuff than you used to.
- It’s more impressive on social media: what do your photos of Iceland say about you? That you can afford the $299 flight on Wow/Ryan/Cheapo Air? Even a pic from the top of Mt. Everest isn’t as impressive as it used to be (the Sherpas do all the work!!). Your redone kitchen will get a lot more likes… hey, some of those kitchens even have their own social media accounts.
- It puts everyday experiences on steroids: a dinner party is about the company, not what’s served. But, wouldn’t it be more fun to have that dinner party in your new outdoor gazebo, or that barbeque done in your outdoor kitchen vs. the little hibachi? Ask your guests, I’m sure they’ll agree.
- It’s still there after you die: I know, you might be saying, “who cares, I’ll be dead”. But, the stuff can allow you to leave your loved ones a precious legacy, or at least financial security. After you’re gone, they ain’t gonna get anything out of that African Safari you took. Plus, far be it from me to indulge in cynicism, but… everyone will be a lot nicer to you when you’re old and ready to die if you have a lot of stuff to leave them (sorry!).
- Your stuff can be self funding: a wine tasting class or adventure tour can’t really pay for itself, but lots of “junk” (espresso machine, soda stream, bread maker) lets you avoid everyday expenses, resulting in a net positive.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone should accumulate useless junk and spend their days hovering protectively over it, like some sort of inmate at the prison commissary. Just that there’s a kind of permanence, and sense of accomplishment, that can only be delivered by a well curated selection of stuff.
Is there “stuff” you wouldn’t trade even for the most coveted experiences? Tell us about it in the comment below.