Experiences v. Stuff

Image by hunterseakerhk via Flickr

On Friday, I went to see Evil Dead: The Musical with some friends.   The play obviously isn’t a good match for everyone, but we are all horror movie fans, I’m a Bruce Campbell fan, and all of us had seen and enjoyed at least Army of DarknessIt was a good fit for us.

The play, followed by a late dinner and drinks with people I care about, was easily the most money my wife and I have spent on a night out in years.  That’s including an overnight trip for my cousin’s wedding.

Now, several days later, I keep thinking about that night, but not with regret about the price.   I keep thinking about the fun I had with my wife and some of our closest friends.   We saw a great play that had us in stitches.  We had a few hours of good conversation.  We had a good time.  I would happily do it all over again.  In fact, I would happily reorganize our budget to make something similar happen every month.

I don’t remember the last time I spent 3 or 4 days happily thinking about something I bought.

I look around my house at the years of accumulated crap we own and I see a big rock tied around my neck.    Even after a major purge this spring, we’ve got more stuff than we can effectively store, let alone use.  When something new comes in the house, we spend days discussing whether we really need it or if it should get returned.   When we plan a big purchase, we debate it, sometimes for weeks.

Getting stuff is all about stress.

My wife and I are both familiar with the addictive endorphin rush that comes with some forms of shopping.    I wish the rational recognition of a shopping addiction was enough to make it go away.  Buying stuff makes us feel good for a few minutes, while high-quality experiences make us feel good for days or weeks, and gives us things to talk about for years to come.

It’s really not a fair competition between experiences and stuff.   Experiences are the hands-down winner for where we should be spending our money.

Why then, does stuff always seem to come out ahead when it comes to where our money actually goes?

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    1. I’m right there with you….I feel much better about paying for life experiences than stuff. I really need to just get rid of everything in my house that doesn’t get used regularly. Why do I still have lacrosse sticks in my basement…I never played lacrosse!

      Also, Bruce Campbell rocks! I had no idea there was a muscial.

    2. I didn’t either, until my wife told me. Her coworker played Ash’s sister.

      If you get the chance, go see it. It’s worth the money.

    3. Mr. BFS and I reached this conclusion a couple of years ago and literally spend thousands of dollars a year on experiences now. The only “stuff” we have bought lately has been 4 $16 bookcases to help us organize (and our bottom floor looks so nice now) and board games that we play with friends every weekend or two. Our “stuff” purchases are analyzed by both of us very closely for real value now, lol. We hardly think twice about the $2000 we spend on our annual summer vacation though. 🙂

      • We still buy far too much stuff. We’re working on it, but it’s not easy to break that habit. My mother-in-law is a compulsive hoarder, so my wife’s early training isn’t exactly “consumption-free”.

    4. Stuff comes out ahead cause we are all short term thinkers, which is the problem. Notice how the night with wife, friends and discussion you are still talking about hit and loving it. There is a slow, long lasting satisfaction there at play. But when you buy something on impulse there is a huge short term rush. We just seem to be wired for this short term rush.

      Hopefully, we can get our act together and realize the money we make is meant to be spent enjoying the people we love in this world cause great memories can last a life time, dont expire, shink or not fit, and don’t go out of style!

    5. I know there have been times when I’ve thought that an experience lasts only for the moment but the “stuff” lasts for as long as you keep it. So, according to this line of thinking, it makes more sense to buy stuff.

      But, stuff can cost us money to maintain, can chain us down and enslave us, and can add stress in our lives.

      We’re starting to think more about spending money for experiences as our kids get older (we have 5 kids ages 4-14) because of the relationships that can be built (depending on the experience) and the memories that can last a lifetime.


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