Are you looking for gifts for friends, family, or your loved ones? Give them an experience! There we’ll go into 9 reasons why experiences are better than things.
Valentine’s Day is coming closer and closer. While it is fun to buy a physical gift, an experience can add to the experience and make lasting memories. Last-minute gift ideas can be found here.
I remember that I was 16 years old and wanted to buy something for my best friend for Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t find anything in the store that I liked, so I decided to take her to a theme park where I always went with my family when I was younger. We had the best time and I’m still thinking about how fun that gift was.
Since that moment, I am convinced that experiences are better than things. Experiences are so important in life and can provide you with lasting joy.
Especially since I’m working full-time and time is more scarce than money. I enjoy doing something with my friends and family instead of buying them things.
Spending time with the people I love is important to me. It’s one of the main reasons I’m working towards financial independence.
Let’s get into why experiences are better than things!
9 Reasons Why Experience Gifts Are Better Than Things
Let’s get into why experiences are better than things!
#1 – Experiences Provide Memories
Building on experiences means building up memories.
I remember much more about what we did when I was a kid, compared to what I got as gifts. Sure there were some fun things that I got, but the experiences were always better remembered.
When we were younger we always went to this theme park, around twice a year. I had the best time there growing up and it was a great park! Because I had such a great time when we visited, I visited them many times over.
It’s not only about the experience itself, but also about the building up to the experience. Let’s take another example. You’re going to a festival. You’re preparing to buy the tickets, you’re preparing your stuff, meeting your friends, and going to the festival. It is the entire experience that you get by going to a festival, not just only being there and going home.
When you get home, you recall the things that happened months later. You only recall the fun and enjoyable moment, making it for a good laugh and connection.
#2 – Experiences Enable You To Spend Time Connecting
When you’re going and experiencing together with other people, you will connect with them. Whether you will go on holiday together, to a concert, to a sports game, or have lunch together. It is all about connecting.
You are present with the people you’re there with, sharing interests, and having a good time. These are the ideal opportunities to connect and have a good conversation with one another!
When you’re meeting your friends months or even years later, you can connect again over the awesome time you had and you can discuss the specifics of the experience. For example, you can talk about how great the concert was and how amazing the singer was performing.
If you run into someone with the same interest, it will be much more interesting for you to discuss that common interest than to talk about your physical possessions like your phone or car.
#3 – Happiness Over Material Things Fade
Ever got so hyped over something new you got?
I remember when I got my first smartphone. I thought it was the best thing out there. A couple of months later it was normal and many of my friends already had a new one.
I wasn’t as happy and hyped with my new phone as I was before.
Why is that? Well, people get used to possessions very easily. This is also called hedonic adaptation.
The more emotional attachment you have to an item, the happier it makes you. For example, my favorite mug is the one that is from Disneyland. And my favorite slippers I got from my partner.
Besides that, experiences influence happiness on a more permanent level. Because you are positively influencing your identity with experiences, it will give you more joy over the long term.
#4 – Experiences Are Mostly Free
Being outside and exploring is what makes a lot of people very happy. It doesn’t even have to cost a dime!
I go running with a friend every week, take walks with my partner, and get on my bike. This is perfect if you’re thinking that being frugal is boring.
If you’re choosing experiences over things, this will help you reach financial goals along the way. The most important thing is to spend time with someone. This doesn’t have to be expensive at all! Check out what free summer activities or no-spend weekend activities you can do!
#5 – Material Possessions Can Turn Into A Burden
When you’re accumulating lots of stuff into your life, it can become a burden. I remember when I first wanted to simplify my life.
I decided to start with the minimalist lifestyle and focus on buying less. Besides that, I was focusing on things that give me joy. This decluttering process together with my moving resulted in me selling and giving away 80% of my stuff. I’m much better at it!
Having a lot of stuff takes up space in your home, that’s one thing everyone knows. The other thing is that stuff takes up space in your mind, whether you want it or not. You have to organize your stuff, care for your stuff, and you see it laying around most of the time. This can take a lot of energy.
Experiences contrarily don’t take up any space, which gives room for rest and peace in your home.
#6 – Less Comparision When It Comes To Experiences
You may be talking about the newest phone, the newest car, or whatever you may talk about on a day-to-day basis. You quickly tend to compare yourself with others when it comes to those things.
Comparison in terms of things may lead to envy.
BUT, experiences seem to do the opposite.
When I tell something about my mini-retirement, they are not envious but very fascinated. They ask tons of questions and we often end up sharing travel experiences.
Any experience is personal and very specific, meaning that comparing simply is harder. Someone may have had a comparable experience, but only want to share how great their experience was with you.
Of course, there are still people flying first-class or taking taxis instead of public transport. That is just not as easy to compare as an iPhone 8 versus an iPhone 11.
#7 – Experiences Say Something About Ourselves
When you have bought the latest phone, this doesn’t change who you are as a person and what you value. While the things you buy can be an expression of how you want to be perceived, it doesn’t have any impact on your identity per se.
Possessions tend to be replaced over time, often sooner than we wish. They will break, get outdated, or get lost.
Who you are as a person is an aggregation of the things you choose to do in your life, the places you have been, and the experiences you have had.
That latest phone will not change who you are, a trip to Central America might do just that.
That’s why people identify more with a specific experience than a specific material possession. Experiences are a part of you, you bring them everywhere with you – in our memories.
#8 – Experiences Broaden Your Perspective
While it is great to have the newest gadgets, it is less likely to change your outlook on life from a new gadget.
Experiences, on the other hand, can do that. What if you go traveling to South America, hear different perspectives, and see different lifestyles? You will be grateful for the life you’re given, you will be kind to others, you understand a different culture, and there will be more lessons waiting for you along the way.
#9 – Experiences Fulfill Us More Than Possessions
When you’re having more experiences than possessions, you will be more fulfilled in the longer term according to research.
Because of all the reasons listed above, experiences make us happier than possessions. Many people think that spending money on things makes us happier. Things last longer, right?
Yes, they do, but you adapt quickly to your new standard. When you’ve adapted to your life upgrade, your happiness levels will go back to where they were before. It is not a long-term situation that you’re in.
You buy something, you’re happy, you go back to normal.
This means over the long term, you’re not satisfied with the things you have anymore. In contrast to experiences, where you will be more satisfied as time goes by.
Don’t you love to think back to certain memories you have made with friends and family? Thinking back to all the adventures you’ve had together!
Experiences fulfill other needs like connections, quality time, and unexpected situations.
These reasons show exactly why experiences are better than things!
What do you enjoy more, experiences or material things?
Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.