Experience vs. stuff – investing for happiness

Do you love shoes and beautiful clothes? How about bags or scarfs or endless beauty shop items – crèmes, eye shadows and lipsticks? What does research say about the ultimate modern experience, that of money spending? Well, a recent book by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton “Happy Money” shows clearly that spending money on the experience brings about a lot more happiness than spending it on stuff.

Experience is a different game altogether. I love sharing a good meal, both at home or at a restaurant, and will always be tempted to choose whatever is new for me on the menu. My weirdest culinary experiments included not only every known kind of raw seafood, but also a chicken tartar – yes, it is possible to eat a chicken tartar served by specially certified Japanese restaurants, provided the chicken itself is incredibly fresh (we are talking hours here). I would never refuse a massage or a spa, in fact, will actively seek it out.  Once the actively seeking out bit had brought me somewhere I can only describe as a bathhouse aqua park on the outskirts of Tokyo, where, surrounded by hundreds of naked locals (you can’t wear a swimsuit!!!), I slowly realized that I was the only (a) European, (b) sole, (c) 183 cm tall woman to be there… I love any shade of travelling – whether hours of air miles away or just to a new part of the same city. And given that my budget is not unlimited, the older I get, the more I find myself prioritising spending money on an experience vs. anything that one can buy and consequently keep. Just recently, faced with a six hours stopover in a Beijing airport on a way back from a work trip, I figured out how to get out without a visa (easy, provided you have an onwards boarding pass), find a driver (a lot more difficult because Chinese taxi drivers do not speak English) and travel out of the airport for an hour. And here I was, standing on the Great Wall of China at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning with (almost) no tourist in sight, admiring the mountains and the 600 long years of history as far as I could see. What bag or even a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo could ever compete with that?

So the next time you are tempted by a new technology or fashion item, spend a minute wondering if this is the best investment for your own self. Do you really need an iPad when you already have a laptop, or iPod, when you can store the music on your telephone?   Do you really care of how much thinner the TVs can get? Would it not be much more fun to learn pottery, scrapbooking, or even pole dancing (apparently, a rigorous physical experience that also puts your high hills into good use)?

icone A Propos

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