Possessions vs Experiences: Where Should You Spend Your Money?

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Congratulations! You have survived one of the most challenging years of your life – 2020. As a reward, you may either purchase new possessions or new experiences. Personally, I saved up enough money to purchase a Nintendo Switch Lite. My hesitations rose as January 2021 came. I realized that I want to spend this amount on experiences instead. Surely, I will spend numerous hours on playing it for the first few weeks. However, happiness attached to things fade quickly. Instead, I can invite my significant other to a fine dining restaurant or a relaxing staycation.

A study by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University showed why possessions have a fleeting effect. Our excitement fades because we get used to new things. What once seemed novel quickly becomes the norm. We adapt.

I remember purchasing my first designer bag. I started collecting lower-end bags and began to grow fond with high-end bags. As I buy more designer bags, my expectations increased. I became more particular with the brand and the price. My increased expectations led to increase expenses. We keep raising the bar with possessions. This leads to the desire of wanting new and better things.

Lastly, possessions foster comparisons. You may purchase the latest designer bag, but feel empty when you compare your collection to your friends. There will always be someone with a better item than yours. These reasons highlight why it is better to invest on experiences than on possessions.


1. Experiences help you invest on purposes and passions.

If your guiding principle in life are possessions, you may be in trouble. You will never feel fulfilled chasing after the next “must have” item. Real happiness can be reaped through experiences. Follow your purpose and passion.

2. Experiences become a part of your identity.

You are a culmination of your experiences. Buying an iPhone is not going to change who you are as a person. Completing your first triathlon will certainly change you. You were shaped by the things you have done, the places you have been, and the people you met.

3. Experiences fuel less comparison.

Our experiences are subjective. It is hard to compare the quality of vacation two people have. A person may have a short and meaningful vacation, while his peer may have a long and wasteful one. It is difficult to quantify the relative value of any two experiences, which makes them more enjoyable.

4. Experiences foster anticipation.

Anticipation of an experience is important in increasing one’s excitement and enjoyment. While, anticipation of obtaining a material possession can cause impatience and frustration. Savor the moments of planning all the way to the memories that you will cherish forever.

5. Experiences introduce you to a whole new world.

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Unlike material possessions, experiences introduce you to new perspectives and moral lessons. For instance, travelling can instill gratitude and acceptance. You will begin to appreciate and understand different cultures as you travel to New York City or Manila City. Let your wallet take you to places you have never been before!

Sources: 1 & 2

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