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Spending on Experiences Rather than Things

One of the biggest upsides of downsizing is the realization that our most valuable assets are not found on a balance sheet. Relationships with loved ones, maintaining good health, the luxury of time, and memorable experiences are far more valuable than anything parked in our driveways or stuffed in our closets.

I’ve had a few conversations lately about the hot topic of spending money on experiences rather than things. Studies show that true happiness is found when money is spent on experiential rather than material purchases. Why?

Experiences are relived again and again, taking on symbolic meaning, whereas things are just things. The weekend I spent in San Francisco three summers ago to see The Dave Matthews Band with a group of a dozen friends was an amazing bonding experience. Some of us started friendships that weekend that continue to grow today. Last year’s “must have” boots are still just boots. Only now they’re last year’s style.

Experiences increase in value over time, while most things decrease. Our recollections of the experiences improve with time since we forget the boring bits and remember the highlights. Things, not so much. Especially when parts break, the warrantee expires or the newer, shinier things come along.

Spending on experiences usually involves social interaction, which is proven to bring happiness. A thousand dollars spent on a weekend get-away will involve social interaction. A thousand dollars spent on the latest designer handbag won’t.

This topic got me thinking about restaurants.

Now, many budget-conscious folks feel that eating at home and taking a sack lunch to work is a no-brainer for cutting expenses. After all, as they say, it’s just food! Why spend more if you don’t have to?

I beg to differ.

I enjoy dining out. The pleasure it brings me lasts long after the meal ends. Nay, it starts well before the meal during the anticipation stage. From excitement of soaking in the ambiance, to the heady flavors of food, to the special feeling of being well cared-for with fine hospitality, it’s all a wonderful experience.

See, I’m not there just for the sustenance. If that’s all I wanted, I would stay home and make a sandwich. I’m there for the experience.

Because I have many like-minded friends, we dish about the dishes at our favorite foodie spots for hours on end. Even if a meal out isn’t what we hoped for, it still is a good experience to be able to share cautionary tales with friends. The anecdotes allow for a social exchange, whether it’s a good meal or not. Why? Because there is nothing worse for a foodie than to listen to people swooning about restaurants and meals they’ve missed out on. We want to be in the mix, discussing nuances. It brings us great happiness.

So when someone says, “It’s just food.” I say, “If you can’t relax and enjoy the experience, then hit the drive-thru, Amigo.”

All this being said, I don’t dine out as much as I used to, or certainly as much as I’d like to, but when I do, I enjoy the BehJeezuz out of it.