Experiences Buy more Happiness than Things
There is no doubt that money impacts short-term happiness in that we have control over how we spend our time. If you have enough money to quit work while kids are young that might impact your happiness for the time being. If you have enough money to change careers and do what you love, that can impact money. And yet, there are a number of interesting studies that show how and what we spend our money on directly makes us happy.
A team of Harvard researches surveyed people on their spending habits and found that spending money on others does boost happiness whereas spending money on oneself does not affect level of happiness.
Then the old Retail Therapy, when you are down – go shopping. Bad moods make more bad decisions and we spend the most when we feel unhappy. No surprise. Let’s take that further, if we want to keep our financial stress low we need to manage our money well. If we are happy, healthy, and joyful we tend to spend less and therefore have more money.
Then there is the choice between the new dress, table or TV and spending on a great vacation – an adventure – a memory that can never be taken away. Our experiences last while our purchases fade away. We relive these memories through stories, writings, photos, books, websites, blogs, and sharing years later about your adventure rafting down the Grand Canyon years later. Carter and Gilovich in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology report that as our income increases (for those with expendable income), buying an experience (i.e. a vacation, a learning event, a play, movie, dining out) provide us with two to three times the level of wellbeing that a material purchase provides.
Rule of thumb, we are less likely to regret buying an experience than a thing. This in turn makes us feel good and not feel regretful, remorseful, or mad at ourselves.
If budgets are tight and you are still looking for a great mini vacation, try a 30 hour vacation in a city close to home. The key is to make it feel like a full weekend by staying close to home (within an hour's drive) arrive at your destination by mid-morning and stay until the following late afternoon. Besides saving on one night hotel, you don't fight the traffic on Friday night and find yourself relaxed and ready to go on Saturday morning.
This past Saturday, our family headed out to San Francisco to immerse ourselves in the festivities of the holidays and treat ourselves to our mini-vacation. Leaving our home in Marin county at 10 am we headed out to one of our favorite districts - Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights for a bit of shopping and an early lunch at Le Mediterranean, a small Greek restaurant that has been there for over 25 years. Next we headed down the hill to the Marina where Zoe-Pascale wanted to get desert at Miette, a French Bakery on Chestnut Street and so we said, "Why not. It is our vacation-- anything goes."
In our 20s and early 30s Jean and I had lived in these two areas and we felt our heartstrings being pulled back to the time we were young and childless, hanging out with friends at nearby restaurants. Gazing around we felt nostalgic and sad to say a bit older.
Next weekend cancel everything. Make no plans. Be spontaneous. Do what comes naturally. Go with the weather. If it is sunny go to the beach. If it is rainy turn on the fireplace and drink hot chocolate.
This past weekend was one of the most relaxing and also somewhat productive weekends my family has had in along time. The secret, we planned nothing.
We woke up on Saturday, lazed around, read, had coffee, did a bit of gardening, a bit on the computer and had a nice leisurely lunch outside in the sunshine. By 2 pm, my daughter asked if we could go to the Halloween store to buy her a costume. She no longer wanted to be a princess but now that she was 10, she wanted to be a vampirette. Casually we drove on over and found the perfect costume for a decent price. Next door was Borders and all being lovers of books and bookstores, we all agreed "let's go.: Wandering the aisles and settling down to read a magazine or a book, we had some ice tea and just let the time slide by-- one hour-- two hours-- we had no where to go and no one waiting for us. By 6:30 we decided to head home and make dinner and slide again into a DVD, all cuddled up in bed together. Upon waking up on Sunday morning to a gorgeous crystal clear blue sky, I packed a picnic and we headed out to Stinson Beach for a long walk and a beautiful morning. A latte in hand, a Sunday paper tucked under our arms we drove over the Mountain to the beach. There is nothing like Stinson Beach on a sunny fall morning with a few people walking the two mile strand, dogs snapping at the water, and the water glistening like diamonds.
Halfway back, Zoe decides she needed to build a deep hole. No reason, no purpose, no destination, it just was what she felt like. Jean on all fours digging like a dog found himself immersed in enjoying the dig with her. An hour later we grabbed our picnic, chairs, and blanket and sat down to eat and read the paper. ---and so the day continued. It just flowed. Zoe wanted to see a friend and we called and picked her up 5 minutes later. (How often does that happen?) A quick play date (which now is evidentally called a date that she is ten). A quick stop at a friend's open house because it felt right, not because we were committed and the home for dinner and hanging out before bed.