Why is it better to spend money on experiences rather than material things?

Most of us are in a pursuit of happiness. We know that money can surely make us happier, but we can notice that money is losing the importance once we’ve bought some things we have always craved for. Money is a very limited resource, unlike us. Therefore it is essential for us to achieve the best possible ratio between the amount of the money we invest and the level of happiness achieved by such investment.

When people decide how to spend the money, majority of them is led by a very simple thought:

‘It is much better to by some stuff. That will make me happier in long term perspective, much more than one-time experiences such as concerts or vacations.’

However, is this really true?

One of the enemies of happiness is a habit. We buy things in order to make ourselves happy and we undisputedly succeed in that. However, this is only temporary. New things are exciting only at the beginning. We get used to them afterwards and they stop being interesting to us.

It must have happened to all of you, ever since you’ve been children, that you wanted some toy pretty badly, that you couldn’t leave your parents alone until they finally bought it to you. When you finally had it, you were playing for a while, and eventually left the toy to collect dust.

It’s a bit contradictory to see that some physical object, that we can keep at our possession for a long time, doesn’t make us as happy as some experience may do. To make the irony even bigger, majority of these things is designed in order to make us accustomed to them quickly and this exact fact is working against them. New thing sinks into what we consider normal.

Whereas happiness caused by material things decreases over time, experiences become a part of our identity. Experiences make significant part of our personality, much bigger than materialistic things do. We can really enjoy the things we have. We can even think that one part of our identity is attached to these things. Regardless of this, some things remain separated from us. On the contrary, our experiences are actually a part of us. We are a sum of our experiences.


It sometimes happens that people are not happy with the experiences they’ve had. However, it often happens that this negative feeling is drastically reduced once people get a chance to talk about it. Something we have experienced as stressful or terrible can turn out to be interesting, even funny story, that we will gladly talk about in the company of our friends. It will represent one experience we have learnt from, that we have successfully survived and that has contributed to forging our personality.

One more reason why it is useful to invest in experiences is that we get much more connected with other people that we have shared some experience with, than with people that have bought the same thing as we have. The chances of connecting with others are much bigger with the people that we have met on summer vacation or a course, rather than with people who have bought the same LCD TV.

Others are directly involved in our experiences and, once they leave, they still remain a part of that experience that we will talk about in the times coming. Even if someone hasn’t been there with you in the moment you were having a particular experience, you will more probably connect better with someone because you’ve both gone skiing to the same ski resort or because you have watched the same play, than if you have the same shoes.

People also don’t tend to compare their own experience with the experience of others in a negative way. When it comes to comparing material things, the situation is drastically different. It’s much easier to compare material things than experiences (‘How many megapixels does your camera have?’; ‘How many carats does your ring have?’). People tend to do it so often exactly because it’s that much easy.

For all of you who want to increase the ratio of happiness that you gain from particular amount of money that you invest, for all the employers who want to have happy employees and – therefore- better results, this is maybe the right time to think about some investment in an experience. Go and watch that movie you’ve been thinking about lately, go to the theatre, pay for that short trip, start with the dance course, pay for any course either for you or your employee. There are many experiences that may change your life for better. That doesn’t necessarily have to be an NLP course. It is only one of the ways. Use your time the best way you can. Do something nice for yourself right now.

Dušan Srdić
Doctor of Dental Medicine and Happiness Coach