I’ll admit it. I am a marketer’s dream.
Those addictive promotions like ‘Spend and Save,’ store VIP cards and brands with aesthetically pleasing instagram feeds get me giddy.
The more I see it, the more I need it….and the need turns into a ‘want’ and then a very strong ‘desire.’
Classic textbook ‘Marketing 101.’
(Highly ironic seeing as though I have a postgrad degree in marketing and I spent my entire corporate career in this field!).
But it shows I’m human, and like most of us, we think spending money on ‘things’ will fill us up and make us happy.
However, this isn’t necessarily the case.
There is an abundance of psychological research, mainly by Dr. Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University, that suggests we gain greater levels of happiness spending money on experiences rather than material objects.
In a nutshell, you’re more likely to feel happy by taking a trip to Mexico rather than buying a new leather lounge.
You may be thinking, an overseas trip is fleeting and I can sit on my lounge for years to come?
Well Gilovich’s research suggests that the excitement of a material purchase wears off quickly, as it’s always in front of us (that bright shiny object, isn’t as bright and shiny anymore!).
But the feelings you get before, during and after an experience is significantly more long lasting.
Experiences became an ingrained part of your identity. They create your life’s story and help to make you more interesting and interested in life.
Your material possessions to an extent help to form your identity, but when you think about it, a new leather lounge, fancy new shoes and a kick-arse new MacBook Air still remains separate from you. But your experiences are a part of you and you’re the sum total of all your experiences.
Experiences are also shared and they are more likely to connect us with others. For example, if we go to a pottery class with a friend or holiday with a loved one we consume this experience with others. Even though the experience has ended it’s a part of the story that we tell one another.
Even if the experience wasn’t shared, say if you both separately went to a music festival, you are more likely to bond with someone over this experience than the fact that you both purchased MacBook Airs.
Make sense? I hope so.
Recently I went on a little shopping spree and bought 3 pairs of shoes (one pair was free….who said Spend & Save is a myth?!) and a few clothing items.
Since moving to Hong Kong I’ve hardly bought anything but when I was in Sydney I would literally hold myself back every lunchtime from making an unnecessary purchase.
Once I went out to buy an apple and I came back with a $250 cardigan!
Back to my story…..so I felt very pleased with my new shoes for a few days and then the magic wore off.
But this got me thinking.
I’ve hardly bought any personal items this year and it’s the happiest I’ve felt in a long time.
When I assessed where our household income goes, (with the exception of rent) it’s pretty much spent on a heap of fantastic experiences.
I have done a lot of great travel, had amazing meals and tried new cuisines, made a heap of fantastic new friends, organised events, explored my local neighbourhood, taken a number of different courses and expanded my knowledge and skill set and tried different sporting activities.
I thought it would be helpful if I shared some suggestions of a few different experiences that you could try, that will ultimately fill you up and bring you more joy than just purchasing random stuff.
I’m sure the first experience your mind raced to was travel.
I shared the below quote ‘To Travel is to Live’ on my instagram account and I think it sums up the power of experiences nicely.
Yes you can travel the world and expand your horizons but take time to really see the world no matter where you are.
If you’re lucky enough to travel abroad make the most of every second and place emphasis on the experiences you’re having (rather than the purchases you’re making).
You could be thrilled to see a show on broadway, ride a bike through Bangkok or slurp the juices of a freshly shucked coconut.
If you plan to stay closer to home, consider having a ‘stay-cation’ and explore your city or hometown like a tourist. I’m sure there are so many coffee shops, swimming holes, art exhibitions and guided tours that you’ve considered but never actually got around to do.
Travel has so much to offer.
The feelings of excitement and happiness before, during and after you’ve explored a new corner of the world far outweighs a material purchase.
If you just muttered under your breath “I’m not creative,” well I’m here to tell you that you are.
Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean that you can create an amazing Macrame wall hanging or write earth-shattering poems.
Everyone has the ability to express their creativity and when you do it’s an experience like no other.
Be brave and take an art class, grab yourself an adult colouring book that’s all the rage, join a drum circle, do a photo-a-day challenge, grab your friends and have a dance party at home, start a blog, take up journal writing, try a different form of meditation.
By being creative you connect with a whole new side of yourself and you discover all these new experiences that light you up.
I’m sure you have your weekly exercise routine, but why not mix it up a bit?
Consider doing some exercise or physical activity that you’ve never tried.
Why not join a dragon boat team, grab a heap of your friends and head to an indoor rock climbing centre, put on your runners and go for a hike on a new and exciting trail. Even if you just walk around your neighbourhood, take a different route and do some exploring (I did that last week and it was great!).
I can gaurantee that just mixing up your exercise routine will enhance your life experiences and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
We’ve already established that experiences make us happier than just accumulating stuff AND when we experience things with others we are richer for it.
Making new friends and opening yourself up to new people may not be high on your agenda, but it definitely adds a new and fun perspective to your life.
When I moved to Hong Kong I threw myself in the deep end and rapidly made new friends (I’m still making them!) and these friendships are the most treasured part of my expat experience.
Not sure how to make new friends?
Talk to that girl in your pilates class, join multiple MeetUp groups (I did this), go to different networking events, take a class in something that excites and inspires you.
If you need help with this take a look at 6 Actions Steps to Help You Attract Like-Minded Friends
Ok, so you desperately want that ridiculously expensive pair of heels as a part of your winter wardrobe but you’ve also been tossing up taking an equally expensive Yoga and Meditation course.
Which one do you choose?
I can tell you now that learning and staying curious far outweighs any expensive pair of heels.
Learning something new doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
You could learn a new raw dessert recipe, take a language class at the local community centre, enroll in an online course or watch YouTube videos and learn how to take better photographs.
I’m a nerd and I love learning, plus I’m obsessed with online courses….that’s what I collect over heels at this point in time!
Learning expands our thoughts and perceptions, helps us connect with new people and makes us far more interesting.
Contributing to society and helping others is a fantastic way of having new experiences that are rewarding and mutually beneficial.
If there’s a cause that you care about do some investigating and see what type of ways you could contribute.
You could volunteer at a soup kitchen in the evenings, join a voluntary board or committee, coach a local netball team or join an environmental group. The possibilities are endless!
I joined the Social Committee of The Australian Association of Hong Kong and some of the best experiences I’ve had here is through volunteering my time, organizing and attending great events and meeting a bunch of fantastic people.
By giving your time, skills and knowledge to a worthy cause you will open yourself up to so many great experiences and help others!
These are only a few examples of the diverse experiences that are on offer to you.
Remember – experiences bring far more joy and happiness into our lives than purchases. The sparkle of those splendid shoes will only last so long, but a great experience has much more depth and longevity.
So take action now! Share in the comments below what new experience are you going to try this week instead of spending your money on a material purchase?
I would love to hear your thoughts!
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