Why You Should Buy Stuff, Not Experiences

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The science has come in and you will obtain more happiness by buying experiences over stuff.

But, I just don’t buy it (pun intended).

I will admit that I’m guilty of a love for shopping and a love for stuff, but stuff deserves a champion. The right stuff can make us happy. Especially with many of us still under lockdown, we have had a lot of time to spend with our stuff and a lot less ability to experience anything. Those of us who invested in a comfortable home environment are really benefitting right now. But here are some more reasons why stuff might be a good use of money, rather than a waste.

Stuff Reminds us of Experiences

Stuff versus experiences is not a binary choice. Sometimes stuff – like souvenirs – can count as a reminder of your experiences. Or the stuff, like gifts, reminds us of our loved ones or cherished experiences. Furthermore, the search for stuff – also known as shopping – can be pleasurable and an experience in its own rights. Some of my favorite memories of growing up are shopping with my mom and my stuff serves as a reminder of our relationship and those memories. And if shopping can count as an experience, then every “thing” is a souvenir.

Furthermore, sometimes you need the stuff to take the experience. You likely would need to buy a guitar if you’re going to learn to play the guitar. I mean, there are ways to get around it, but if you’re serious about a hobby or an activity, you will need to buy the stuff that helps you partake in it.

One shouldn’t go overboard and buy all the stuff one possibly can for a new hobby. But buying a few things here or there can make the experience easier and better and might help you stick with the hobby. So there you have more great experiences, brought to you by having stuff.

You Can Top Out on Experiences.

I’ve had lots of “unforgettable” experiences. Turns out, I’ve forgotten many of them. Your memory might also not be that great. The more experiences you have, the less any one experience sticks in your mind. If you have #FOMO or #YOLO thinking, each experience will have to vie with all the other great experiences for space in your mind. Souvenirs, photographs and Instagram can remind you of the good times but it’s not necessary to have a ton of great experiences in your memory; just a few may be enough.

This is not to say that you can’t also have too much stuff (tons of books have been devoted to getting rid of your excess stuff), but you can also have too many experiences to think about. And having more experiences can crowd out other experiences in your life.

Many Experiences Aren’t Worth It

If you bought a new suit and later realize that you work in a casual office or you buy a wildly expensive widget and have a change in circumstances, you can return it to the store for money or credit. Even if you’ve opened or used an item, you can sell the item to recoup part of the cost.

If you’re unhappy with your experience – too bad. I don’t want to scare you from going on that dream vacation  – but often dream experiences aren’t worth it. Worse, you can’t return it to the store.

I noticed this dichotomy when watching that seminal coming-of-personal-finance-age movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic. Sure, the protagonist gets into massive debt, but she pays it down by selling her stuff. Her bad decisions are (unrealistically) wiped clean because she has tangible objects of worth to barter for money. But it stands to reason that if you buy stuff, you can sell it to recoup some of your money and some of it could possibly have increased in value.

On the other hand, if you tried to trade your experiences for …anything, you wouldn’t necessarily get a dollar for it. You can’t trade back the vacation, the concert tickets, the gym classes. Yes, buying stuff can get you into financial trouble but because it is tangible, it can also be part of the solution to get you out of trouble. Experiences are priceless but only to you.

Your Daily Life is More Important than your Vacations

Two weeks is an average number of vacation days for an average American. But there are 52 weeks in a year. What are you doing with the other 50 weeks? Even if you spend one hour every day going to fancy restaurants, movies and sold-out concerts, you still have another 23 hours in the rest of your 50 weeks.

Experiences will never take up most of your day (unless you’re very liberal with the definition of “experience”).  It’s your stuff that’s with you hour after hour, day by day. Upgrading your stuff can cause a real improvement in your life because it affects the majority of the time in your life.

It may make sense to invest in a nice mattress that you sleep on 8 hours a day than to splurge on a vacation for 4 days. It may make more sense to buy the handbag that has all the bells and whistles that you enjoy to make your lugging it around all day easier and more enjoyable than to go to a concert.

Sometimes you have to live for today, and today might be better with nicer stuff.

Stuff can Bring you Joy.

Marie Kondo, international renowned unclutterer and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, asks her clients if an object brings joy. If it doesn’t, it goes away. Of course, she uses this language to suggest that certain objects don’t bring us joy but it serves to highlight the fact that certain objects do bring us joy. Buying tons of stuff will-nilly will not lead to happiness but buying the right stuff that you love can lead to joy.

Having and loving stuff has needlessly gotten a bad rap. People who love their stuff can be stereotyped as selfish or materialistic. However, studies have found that having strong attachments to our stuff is an indicator that we have strong ties to people. It’s our stuff that reminds us of our most important relationships and milestones. It’s our stuff that reminds us of the people we once were and the people we want to become. Our stuff is our tie to our community, our past, our present and our future. Seen in this light, stuff can certainly be a good thing in our lives.

I Love Experiences

So despite everything I’ve said here, I’m so excited that I went on a bunch of trips last year. I think traveling is super important to learn about others and to learn about yourself. I am so grateful for all the trips I took, meals I ate out, and all the other in-person experiences I experienced before lockdown.

That being said, stuff has been our savior during this lockdown. I am extremely grateful I spent the time to make a cozy home because I’ve had to spend a lot of time here. A car has become a necessity for many of us as personal protective equipment. People are less likely to want to rent everything right now because of the fear of contamination. The stuff that keeps us rooted in our homes is important, even critical, to our safety and happiness.

Be Careful Buying Stuff AND Experiences

So if I love experiences, why am I pro-buying stuff? My point here isn’t that people should never buy experiences but it has to be balanced. The lockdown has shown us that we can’t delay wonderful experiences assuming they’ll always be there. But we also need to be prepared to be in a place.

Since I’m on online dating, I read any number of profiles where people’s main goals are visiting as many countries as possible, and I wonder how you can build your life solely on the foreign. There’s value in trying new things, but there’s also value in building roots at home.

Conclusion – Buying Stuff Not Experiences

So next time you’re choosing between a concert or a new coat, give it a fair fight. Yes the concert will be fun for a night but if the coat will make you smile every morning in the winter, then that’s not necessarily a waste.

Stuff is important.

I’m not giving you license to spend all your money hoarding objects in your apartment. But if you want to buy a few things that make your life easier every day, that seems like a great use of your money.

Readers, what things bring you joy?

Treat Yo’Self: How to Splurge Without Guilt

splurge without guilt

Treat Yo’Self

I once dated a guy who only ate food that was “healthy.” This was disappointing for me because my favorite food is fried chicken.  3-piece Popeye’s with 2 sides and a biscuit – yum! I love desserts. I love ramen. I love food! I’ve never counted calories and I hate dieting.

Judging from what I just wrote, it would seem that I’m overweight and pretty gross. Well, maybe the latter but not the former. How do I do this? Well it’s because I’ve learned to treat myself, and splurge without guilt.

How to Splurge Without Guilt

What I’ve listed above are all aberrations to my diet. 90% of my meals are home cooked. I also practice intermittent fasting so I have a very calorie-restricted diet. I bike, climb, run, and swim regularly.

The secret to treating yourself without guilt is to make splurges abnormal and savings normal.

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Are You a Money Asshole or a Money Victim?

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There is an ever present debate on whether people can lift themselves up by their bootstraps or if many can’t get ahead because they lack privilege. Or as I may colorfully put it – the fight between money assholes and money victims.

But how do you know whether to be Team Asshole or Team Victim? The pros of one side are the cons of the other.  Therefore, I propose a third option – Team Empathy.

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The Easy Hack I Use to Make Failure Fun

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We know that trying new things and meeting new people are integral to achieving our goals. But we also know that all these new things can lead to a lot of rejection. Rejection is hard! How does one motivate oneself to keep going even when faced with so much rejection? For me, I keep myself excited by playing a little game.

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15 Simple Hacks to Reduce Grocery Store Trips

15 simple hacks to reduce grocery store trips
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Even as states lift their lockdowns, minimizing trips to the grocery store is still a smart idea both for safety and for saving money. Every time you run out to the store, that takes time and gas (not to mention the possibility that you catch COVID19). And each grocery store visit means more temptation to buy more than you need. Instead of going out all the time, here are 15 tips to reduce your grocery store visits.

My tips are based on avoiding situations where you might need to run back to the store. The keys are avoiding running out of things, keeping essential foods fresh for as long as possible, and improvising if you want something that you don’t have at home.

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Why I’m Still an Optimist (Yes, Even in 2020)

why i'm an optimist (yes, even in 2020)
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Many believe that the world is objectively at its worst right now and that anyone who would say otherwise is stupid or ill-informed. To that, I’ll say you’re objectively wrong and, even if you were objectively right, you are still wrong to act in a pessimistic way.

I’m still an optimist (yes, even in 2020). And I’ll tell you why I refuse to succumb to pessimism and why everyone should be optimistic, even you.

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The Secret to Health, Wealth, and Happiness

secret to health wealth and happiness
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A few years ago, I realized I had discovered the “secret” to succeeding in the health, wealth, and happiness departments. I had lost ten pounds and was keeping it off. My legs had never been so toned, my skin was glowing, work was fulfilling, my finances were growing, and my relationships were going great.

And it wasn’t because I was working harder. I hadn’t been tormenting myself with terrible diets or 5am wake up calls. What was shocking about my transformation was how little sacrifice I had made.

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Should You Go To Law School?

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I recently received an email asking for my thoughts on how an aspiring law student should handle the finances of law school. Given the extraordinary cost of tuition, I’ve previously written about why students should think twice (and perhaps three or four times) before enrolling in college and law school.

But students should not consider the cost as the most important factor. Should you go to law school? Here is the way to think about it.

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How My Parents Escaped the Lower Class (It Wasn’t Hard Work)

escaped the lower class
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Many people think the American Dream is dead – but immigrants like my parents continue to escape the lower class. Here are some tips on how they did it. 
It’s ingrained in the national psyche that “all you need” to achieve the American Dream is to “work hard.” But there are far more people willing to work hard than people are willing to acknowledge. There are plenty of day laborers and people toiling away at minimum- or low-wage jobs or in the gig economy who will never get ahead. Hard workers are not hard to come by, but hard work is not enough now and has never been enough in the past. Truth is, America has never cared that much about hard work. Why do we keep perpetuating this myth?
My parents came to this country with very little and are very comfortable now. My parents didn’t work that hard. And by that, I mean to say, they weren’t toiling in the fields, doing back-breaking labor. They weren’t working crazy hours hustling. They worked hard on a few finite items that I believe led to their ultimate success. Here are the reasons I believe they were able to escape the lower class.

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Why Nice Girls Finish Last

why nice girls finish last
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Why do nice girls finish last? Being “nice” is different than being “kind”, even though the two can look the same from a distance. Being nice is performing acts in order to get something in return. Being kind is treating people with compassion without any expectation of return. Surprisingly, despite the lack of manipulation, being kind will get you far in life while being nice will give you nothing but frustration. Always be kind, don’t waste time being nice. Nice girls always finish last.

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