Buy Experiences, Not Things – Why Materialism Causes Unhappiness

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” ~ Ellen Goodman

Do experiences make people happier as compared to material possessions? We live in a world of unprecedented abundance where people spend more time and money to acquire material objects than life experiences. Most believe that material goods will get them happiness, though always fleeting.

It stems from the need to either fit in the so-called society, due to peer pressure or to maintain a certain lifestyle, but scientists and researchers conclude that money can’t buy happiness.


According to this study individuals live happier lives if they invest in experiences more than material possessions, and at the same time, communities will have happier citizens if they make available an abundance of experiences to be acquired.

Aristotle said centuries ago that “wealth as a whole consists in using things rather than in owning them.”

But the pervasive consumerism in this day and age often leads us to believe otherwise, we overvalue our possessions and undervalue our experiences.

Another research by Van Boven and Gilovich concluded that people must favor experiential purchases over material ones because experiences become a part of our individual identity, and feels more fulfilling than a good purchase.

If you think of the time you went on a holiday with your spouse or family, you would easily remember the moments like the scenic landscape or the most beautiful sunset. Whereas, material possessions are harder to think about in an abstract sense.

If the material things go out of style, we look at newer models and that initial joy of acquiring an object fades over time. But experiences continue to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred.

Like Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club said, “The things you own end up owning you.” a-mind-that-is

If you look at the definition of ‘Material’ as an adjective, it means “denoting or consisting of physical objects rather than the mind or spirit.” While the definition of ‘Experience’ as a noun is “an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone,” and as a verb it means to “encounter or undergo.”

According to another research, a lot of us consider buying an item for example car, gadget etc., rather than spending it on a vacation because we feel that it gives us a better economic value for our money.

Also, according to Social Comparison theory given by Festinger(1948) suggests that humans have a tendency to compare themselves to others and feel happy if we find ourselves in a better material condition than our peers (friends, family etc).

Society has been trapped in this stream of thinking since a long time. In ancient ages, kings used to find happiness in owning tiger’s skin. Undoubtedly, affluence and power has been inscribed in human psychology for a long time, but it is time for a change considering the current state of the world we live in.

“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” ~ Louis C.K

The desire for material things is endless

The beauty of an experience is it alters you in ways material goods can’t. If you are unhappy, depressed or anxious, then buying a pair of shoes won’t solve the problem as much as traveling to a place that you really like will do. 121123 George CarlinMany studies support the fact that experiences will make you happier than possessions in the longer run.

Experiences, most likely, involves other people as well so it helps make connections with others and leads to better social relationships.

You should always look for ways to enhance your experiences in life. Experiences don’t have to be bought every time, it is more about seeking it. It demands you to step out of your comfort zone, and leave yourself out in the open. Going on a trek or planting a tree doesn’t require lots of money, but the memories of that experience stays with you for a lifetime!

Experiences help you expand your perceptions about your own life and the world around. You appreciate the value of different feelings as each experience is going to be different.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T.S Eliot

Choose wisely, experience over material happiness is also good for our planet.

Image Source

Collect Moments
Money _ George Carlin

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Garima Roy
Garima Roy
Garima Roy, as a sentient being, loves to explore the world with her mind, heart, and soul. Joy is her natural state. You can get in touch with her on:


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