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Experience, Not Stuff

Experience, not stuff: I’ve decided to make this my mantra to live by.

experience vs stuff 150x150 Experience, Not Stuff

It’ll be hard, because I like nice things (ex: shoes), but guess which of the following I remember the most?

(a) A $100 leather jacket purchased in Buenos Aires, that I’ve worn ONCE in 3 years.

(b) A $45 hour-long horse ride on the coastline of Patagonia, just me, the horse, and a cowboy tour guide. I rode on the beach as the waves lapped the sand.

So… spending $$$ to go to Disneyland? Fine. Spending $$$ on food at nice restaurants? Yes, please. Spending $$$ on prep classes? That too. Spending $$$ on a trip to Hawaii to visit a good friend? You betcha. Spending $$$ to go to graduate school down the road. Yes sir.

Money can buy me a lot of stuff or a lot of experience. New things lose their luster, but the memory of experiences can be savored over and over again. I think when I’m old and gray, my memories will be those of things I’ve done, places I’ve been, people I’ve met (which, granted, all require money in one way or the other… which is why saving is fundamental!).

image source: realsimple.com

  • Writer's Coin - I’m with you on this one: traveling is something that I will spend money on without feeling too guilty. But that’s why I enjoy taking pictures so much. Years from now I can look through them and remember all the good times I had and how worth it it all was.ReplyCancel

  • Jess - Lovely post to read right before I head out on a trip to Montreal! I will definitely take note. :) ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - I love your mantra. Now I just need to remember it when browsing the clearance section at Nordstrom!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel @ Master Your Card - Another thing I have noticed about clothes I have bought is that as I get older I cannot fit in them, find them too uncomfortable or they are just not right for my age. Therefore they do not last. However, memories do not fade or change – you are so right.ReplyCancel

  • dogatemyfinances - Funny thing is, would that $45 trip have been any better if it was $450? On my last vacation, I stayed in a $80/night hotel, and a $400/night hotel. I wish I had just stuck to the $80 one! Sometimes the cost of the experience just doesn’t matter.ReplyCancel

  • Ellen - I am definitely with you on this one. I was reading recently that stuff vs. experience is one of the major money attitude differences between North America and Europe. I lean more to the European side I think… memories are priceless. And photos from those memories are some of my most valuable possessions!ReplyCancel

  • Jane - I love this post! My parents always had collections when I was growing up – Christmas ornaments, wind chimes, coffee mugs, etc. I think they enjoyed their collections, (and for the most part, they kept them from taking over the house), but I always swore I wouldn’t be a “collector” when I grew up.

    I’ve realized that I am a collector, though; I just prefer to collect experiences rather than things.ReplyCancel

  • mattg - Yeah, totally agree. It used to seem like “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Seems like we both think its more like “(S)he who dies with the most experiences/memories/well-lived life wins.”ReplyCancel

  • SavingDiva - I love your thought process! I’ve been trying to do this too…but I really like things!

    Now, I’m trying to get rid of things for my move, and I realize all of the unncessary crap that I spent my money on.ReplyCancel

  • quarterlifegirl - I totally agree, so make sure to budget for your picture printing!! hehe

    The “problem” for me though, (kind of along the lines of what dogatemyfinances mentioned)…how much should you really pay for an experience? I don’t know where to draw that line yet, but maybe I’ll learn as the years go by.

    Hmm…I think this calls for a new post…ReplyCancel

  • Small Budget, Big Style Chick - I agree! Clothing trends come and go so its never a good idea to spend too much money on things like that. Traveling also broadens your world view. Your memories from experiences you’ve had are priceless. Besides, you’re only young once!ReplyCancel

  • julianne - It isn’t a matter of not having nice stuff, but making conscious choices. We all have those shoes or jackets or whatever in our closets that we were sure we would wear or use but didn’t. Just about everyone wears shoes, and there is no reason that the shoes you have and wear often shouldn’t be nice ones that you enjoy. Whenever I’m about to buy something, I ask myself a few questions:

    1) Do I like this enough to move it?
    2) How often am I REALLY going to use/wear it?
    3) Where am I going to store this when I’m not using it?
    4) Would I rather put the money toward a trip or experience (prioritize)?

    It isn’t about doing without, but rather making better choices so that you enjoy what you have and are aware of your priorities prior to purchasing.ReplyCancel

  • Jaylin - Buying shoes can be for an “experience”. If I feel super sexy, confident, and in charge in a pair of shoes, I consider that an experience. Just one that I can put on and take off!ReplyCancel

  • Michele - This is such a great post on a simple concept! For so long I was an emotional spender, and I just bought so much STUFF to make up for feeling low at points in my life, instead of actually doing something that would make me feel better. I still love well-made clothes, and perfume, and all those random things, but now I recognize that having them is not really going to make me happier. And when I DO buy things, they will be things that I really love and will use (I’m using the future tense because right now I’m on a shopping diet, whether I love something or not!)ReplyCancel

  • Lo. Price - Great thoughts. On the one hand, I’ve always heard that putting a lot money into depreciating assets (like cars, TVs, foosball tables, etc.) can be a bad thing, and you could argue that something like a vacation depreciates the worst of all (when it is over, you can’t sell it to anyone else and recoup some of your money). However, I have also read this concept that people tend to value more and remember better experiences over things and I think it makes intuitive sense. Another way to think about it is that we eventually get tired of “things” (especially as things get older). However, most experiences don’t last long enough for us to get tired of them, so the happy memories still alive at the end of the experience live on with us. Also, for me, I’ve noticed I tend to remember the best parts of vacations and forget the worst, which makes memories even more valuable.ReplyCancel

  • mapgirl - Sometimes you have to turn the stuff into an experience. For me, buying a leather coat in Italy while visitin with my mom is one of the best memories of that trip. I learned a lot about her and her bargaining skills that day!

    For me, stuff without straight utility has to remind me of a memory. If I can’t figure out who gave it to me, why I got it, etc, it’s akin to trash and can be tossed out.ReplyCancel

  • Karen - This is soooo true! Every penny I spent on graduate school was totally worth it. Every trip I’ve ever taken too. The biggest waste of money has always been new cars. Now I just buy the most value-oriented used car possible and try and keep as much money out of cars as possible. Culture/education/life call instead!ReplyCancel

  • fluvial - Just wanted to say hi and tell you that I love your blog! I was in Argentina last year and had many of the same experiences. I ended up making a full birthday dinner for the son of the hostel owners I was staying with in Patagonia. Making dinner with an Argentine family and celebrating a birthday was them was FAR more memorable than those tango shoes I bought.

    Keep up the good work!ReplyCancel

  • Me: 1. Lifestyle inflation: 0. (for now) « Well-Heeled, with a mission - [...] that I CAN save $1,800 a month. I’ve also found that to align my spending with my values (more experience, less stuff), I need to cut back on buying things and increase spending on traveling. Which I love. Even a [...]ReplyCancel

  • nat - “Experience, not stuff” … I like it :) As i am currently trying to save for future travelling memories, I am having a big problem with the buying of stuff… I just can’t help it.

    But i have to remember that experiences are far far more valuable… thanks :)


  • Jewelry For Gifts | Well-Heeled Blog - [...] More Experience, Not Stuff I've decided to make the above my mantra to live by. It'll be hard, because I like nice things (ex: [...]ReplyCancel

  • Jaime Lila Donovan - I don't quite agree. Buying some stuff has helped my life be easier. Then again I don't own an excess amount of stuff. I do agree that I like spending money on experiences but I also like spending consciously on stuff that I will constantly use. My computer cost around $1600 but I've gotten a lot out of it. I've played games, used IM, I write, I use photoshop, etc. I use it everyday and get a lot of use out of it. I'm very happy with it. ReplyCancel

  • jj1 - I think that things usually can't compare to experiences because things, esp. technology related, devalue over time. As much as you may love your new iphone, ipad or laptop, it becomes obsolete after 3 years. Experiences, even not so postive ones, tend to magnify over time. I backpacked through Europe in my early 20s; now 20 years later I still remember it so fondly and have forgotten all the hassles of travel such as getting lost etc… ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Franceschi - Memories are always better than things but sometimes thing help me bring back memories….
    on that note… where did you get that awesome bag with the "W" inside the doile design?! I love it… I want one! It will help me remember I like this blog! ;) ReplyCancel

  • Why We Are So Bad at Buying Happiness - [...] More Experience, Not Stuff Experience, not stuff: I've decided to make this my mantra to live by. It'll be hard, because I [...]ReplyCancel

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