Do you like to spend money on nice things or vacations?
A recent article in the New York Times, shows that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects and when they stop trying to outdo the Joneses.
I completely agree with this statement which is why my husband and I moved our family to Belize in 2004, for one year. These were the days of conspicuous consumption when some parents in our neighborhood purchased a flashy new BMW, Mustang or large truck for their son or daughter, on their sixteenth birthday. We did not want our sons to think they were entitled to such material possessions, as did many of their peers. So we escaped to live a simple life in Belize where adventure and new experiences became part of our daily life.
There seems to be a new trend in the U.S., according to retailers, where “consumers have gravitated more toward experiences than possessions over the last couple of years, opting to use their extra cash for nights at home with family, watching movies and playing games.”
I think this is wonderful news, as far as getting families to spend more time bonding, than out spending. Jennifer Black, president of the retailing research company Jennifer Black & Associates says, “I think people are realizing they don’t need what they had. They’re more interested in creating memories.”
If we look back at our lives, what do we treasure most?
It’s sad to see that it takes a recession to make some people realize that spending time with family and friends means more than purchasing an electronic gizmo.
I don’t think the “I want it now” generation has been happy acquiring more stuff. Research shows that anticipation increases happiness.
As far as memories go, how many of you remember the bad things that happened on your trip abroad that later become your most exciting travel tale? I remember, at thirteen, getting stuck in an elevator in Budapest, Hungary, with my best friend. Although terrified at the time, we laugh about it today.
We need to get back to basics; memories, experiences, reconnecting with family, friends and community. I wonder what long-term consequences this will this have on a U.S. economy which relies on consumer spending to grow?
Ballerina Girl says
I think we will always spend so don't worry too much about the economy…it always seems to bounce back with the newest product that everyone must have…even those that are cherishing their experiences more now.
I love to connect with my family and we love to travel….so I am right there with you that the experiences are much more valuable than the possessions….that is one reason why we move our family around every few years….to experience a new culture and explore a new surrounding.
It's not for everyone, but we love it!
Cora L. Foerstner says
Ah, a timely blog. Yes, of course, I agree; travel and experiences trump things. I don't really think of it as creating memories, but as living life, experiencing as much of life as possible, and living in the moment rather than worrying about the past or the future. Enjoying people, those we love and meeting new people.
We consume ourselves into debt and our things become burden.
And isn't it wonderful to live in this age of Great Communication via Facebook, email, cell phones and blogs? Instant messages and instant photos – it's all priceless. Today we received a little video of our granddaughter and her dad playing "David & Goliath" on the bed (she's 3 and thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic falls). Such a precious little moment that we were able to witness.
Robert the Skeptic says
Experiences are far more significant than possessions. Most "objects" depreciate over time, but memories always bring pleasure now from past moments.
We took all our adult kids and their partners and stayed in a three-bedroom condo for 10 days in Cancun last year. We had a great time.
All of our kids travel, much more than we do. Kara has been to Morocco, Hungary and Romania. She's planning her next trip to Vietnam. (I almost went there several years ago under different circumstances).
What a wonderful post! I used to scoff at friends who travelled at the time, thinking it was a travel sort of "keeping up with the Joneses."
Now I realize that they had an opportunity to visit new places and people, and they acted on it. They have lived their lives to the fullest.
Thank you so much!
I'm all about memories and experiences. Then when you don't have any money left, you have lots of good stories to tell and that alone will entertain you 🙂
I don't know what it will mean for the economy but I think it will do wonderful things for people if the value of an experience trumps the value of a new gizmo. I have never regretted any money spent on something that offered my family a new experience or a new place.
As we've never had a lot of money (because we were working part-time jobs), we never got into "conspicuous consumption." We had enough to eat, a good roof over our heads, reasonable clothes and the like. We had the "tools" we needed for work — in my case, books, typewriter, and (later) computer.
We did have the chance to spend some time in the Middle East and Africa (Egypt).
One event stands out. We often walked past the "Islamic Orphans Industrial School" in Jerusalem. One day, however, we became the targets in "stoning practice." My wife and I had some fairly serious stuff thrown at us. I "returned fire" long enough for my beloved to get away; I quickly scampered after her.
Now that I'm moving into retirement (in a month), I will need less things than I had. So more books will be cleaned out (and "re-cycled"); things will go to children, grandchildren, the Mennonites (who have good stores for people of limited means to buy reasonable things). About the only thing we will be consuming is food. Travel will be pretty much limited to around our city, or a bit beyond. And life will be good!
I think the over-consumption trend is much more widespread in the US. Over here in Europe lots of people realize that experiences, memories, family are the valuable things.
I'm always fascinated how you seem to move so frequently. Did you write a post about the profession you picked that has allowed you to do this?
I love your last statement. So true.
Yes, in one way it's nice, but not if it prevents us from doing things face to face. I agree though, we can communicate easier with loved ones, long-distance.
@Robert the Skeptic
Cancun is the favorite holiday place for my family. Kara seems like quite the world traveler.
See, you have noexcuses not to travel. I couldn't resist.
As an expat, you're the expert on memories.
I'm completely with you on that.
What happened with the "stoning practice," especially outside the orphans school? It seems like you've found the right balance in your life.
How can we get that "quality of life" to the U.S.? I know there are more issues involved, like health care, longer holidays, less time at work, pensions, etc.
I've been dirt poor and I've been financially well off… I'm here to tell you that $$ has nothing to do with happiness!
When I find myself mindlessly shopping I ask this question: Do you need this or are you trying to fill a void?
Often it's the latter!
Thought provoking post!
I agree with ladyfi.
Kids want 'to be' with their parents more than anything else.
It's because adults themselves love shopping (for some it's the most important hobby!) -how could they be other kind of role models?
But every generation learns. Or should learn.
I hope so.
Well said and a great reminder. In the states, it's so easy to get wrapped up with the Joneses. When I'm abroad, I realize how my priorities are quite jumbled up. I think of how much money I spend on things that I'm told are necessities; only to realize, once far away from home, that they are hardly necessary.
So thanks for the reminder. Though I can tell you now, that I'm going to have a hard time saying goodbye to my beloved German SUV when I go away next year. But we can't expect our kids to not have the vices we have, unless we conquer them, can we?
Preppy Pink Crocodile says
I completely agree that I would much rather, in the long term, have an experience over an object. It's a matter of remembering that every time I am in Target though…