7 Reasons Why Experiences Trumps Over Materialistic Things

Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.

–  Margaret Anderson

H uman feelings are considered very versatile and a matter of huge debate. The emotions pertaining inside a human body have always been a source of entertainment. Be it happiness, jealousy, anger or sorrow, every emotion has its own perks. These feelings sometimes arrive from the materialistic things surrounding us, but they don’t last for long. We spend huge amounts of money on materialistic things to enjoy temporary leisure. Someone rightly said that money can’t buy you happiness.

You buy a particular thing, enjoy it for quite some time, and then you feel it’s losing it’s charm. You eventually get bored of it. The pleasure you got here, Is this what you call real enjoyment? Obviously No. We never understand that these things can only satiate our needs for a certain period of time and that may be because we assume that physical objects remain with us for a longer duration, which in turn will make us happy for a longer period of time.

So why not invest our money on perpetual happiness, on something that will give you everlasting memories and joy? So why not start investing in experiences rather than on mindless materialistic things? To go out and explore things? Visiting music festivals, art galleries, indulging in some adventure sports will leave an everlasting effect in you. These are things that have the ability to change your perception towards life!

A new study, led by San Francisco State University professor, Ryan Howell, suggests that extroverts and people who spend their disposable income on experiences like attending a concert or exploring an unexplored activity, reported greater satisfaction.

According to psychologist, Matthew Killingworth, happiness is in the content of moment-to-moment experiences. Nothing material is intrinsically valuable, except for the promise of happiness it carries with itself, which we cease to appreciate once it wears off.

The idea that experiential purchases are more satisfying than material purchases has long been the domain of Cornell psychology professor, Thomas Gilovich. Since 2003 he’s been trying to figure out why experiences are so much better than materialistic things.


Reasons are many. Some are as follows:

  1. “When you can’t live in the moment, it’s best to live in anticipation.” – Rightly said. Waiting for experiences apparently elicits more excitement and joy than waiting for physical objects. The wait for a material good is fraught with impatience rather than excitement. A good example of this is the kind of anticipation you feel when you are looking forward to going for a trek. You are happy, nervous yet extremely thrilled about your trip yet to happen. But what about the kind of feeling when you have ordered headphones? you don’t feel happy to anticipate, you are not thrilled due to the delay in delivery, you are just plain irritated. Experience wins here.
  2. According to Gilovich, experiential purchases are more satisfying because people are less likely to compare their experiences with others. That may be because experiences are unique for everyone. He goes on to give an example by saying many people are unsure if they want a higher salary that is lower than their peers or lower salary that is higher than their peers. With experiential purchases like a vacation, or a music concert, this dilemma doesn’t exists.
  3. Experiences are associated with identity, social behavior, connection and the same experience differ from each other because of perceptions which makes it far more interesting than a play station that you bought and got bored off because such material possessions doesn’t associate with identity or behavior.
  4. Another reason that makes experiential purchases better than its rival is the fleetingness of it. The fleetingness of experiences makes them dear to us. That particular realization makes experience invaluable. Whereas the iPhone that you just bought will lose its charm despite the fact that it will remain with you for a long time. The fact that the material possession is always with us works against it. Hedonic adaptation!
  5. Experiences help in social interactions. When you go to a concert, you meet various people experiencing the same moment differently. You start interacting due to common likes or experiences. Researchers have found that people tend to be more generous when they have thought of experiential purchases opposed to material purchases.
  6. Experiences are way more interesting than physical objects! The most interesting hypothesis is that you can imagine all sorts of possibilities for what an experience is going to be like! There are thousand possible ways of how an experience can turn out to be like, which keeps us anticipating.
  7. Bad experiences turn out to be good stories in future. This is something that we all are familiar with. When we experience something bad or humiliating, we fret about the situation in the present, but as time passes by, we sit back and laugh at the same story.

The broader implication, according to Gilovich in a press statement are that “well-being can be advanced by providing infrastructure that affords experiences such as park, trails, beaches as much as it does material consumption.”

Going for vacations, spending time closer to nature, exploring the unexplored are all temporary, But their effect? Everlasting. Their memories? Far more sweet than the first time you bought your favorite couch. Experiences bring people together. It breathes life in your existence.

So instead of investing on a luxury car, start investing on experiences. Go to places you’ve never ventured before and make experiences. Or rather buy experiences!