Experiences vs Things

A valuable life lesson I’ve learned is the difference between experiences and things. I define experiences as the time we spend with family, friends, and those closest to us. Things are the possessions, the stuff, that we accumulate. I’ve discovered that I get a much better return spending money on experiences over things.

Experiences make memories. Memories last. Memories make up the stories that get recounted when getting together with family and friends. I’ve rarely, if ever, regretted spending a little extra on an experience. I have many fond memories of family vacations, meals at interesting restaurants, discussions over good coffee, trips to get good ice cream (yes, I’m looking at you Salt & Straw), and evenings out with friends. I could have certainly spent less on some of these experiences, but the memories would not have been the same. In other words, the extra money spent was well worth it.

On the other hand, things are perishable. They don’t last. They wear out. Things break. We obsess over them. We lose them. When we over invest in things, we spend time worrying about and caring for them. That time spent worrying and caring about things is time and energy taken away from relationships with family and friends.

It’s a tough lesson. It’s natural to want good things. Our media-obsessed, advertising-based culture promotes it. If we don’t have the nicest house, the best car, the latest fashion, we feel unworthy. Our reputation, our self-worth, our self-image takes a hit. It’s a trap. These feelings aren’t real. The media and companies make us feel that way to make us want more. It benefits them, not us.

I’ve found that having more and nicer stuff is not the answer. Instead, I am better off spending my time, energy, and money on experiences with friends and family. It’s more enjoyable. It makes for better stories. And most of all, it makes for memories that will last me a lifetime. It’s a reward that things cannot supply.

(One of my favorite bloggers published 5 good rules to live by that are definitely worth reading and go well with the above. Thanks for the inspiration Rohan!)