Research Shows We’re Happier When We Spend Money On Experiences, Not Things

Chad Richard
There are better ways to spend your money, and they revolve on making memories with people you care about.

The next time you’re thinking about buying something for yourself or for others, think about this: A study from the University of San Francisco showed that individuals are happier and more satisfied when they spend money on experiences with others rather than on material things. Think about it in your own life — the happiness that comes from buying things can quickly fade, but, when we spend our money on great experiences with family or friends, those memories often last a lifetime.

Experiences Don’t Have to Be Expensive

When my wife and I first learned this, we started budgeting for experiences or trips together as a family instead of giving our kids things. These don’t have to be expensive experiences to be memorable — some of our favorites have been ones that cost very little like taking a family bike adventure to a unique destination for a picnic, hiking to the top of a mountain for an unforgettable breakfast, or going on a week-long road trip to an exciting destination, for example.
People who have more frequent social interactions live longer, healthier lives and experience less stress, depression, and feelings of isolation.

Create Mico-Experiences

For working parents with kids in school, it can be difficult to find the time off and the extra room in your budget for a major life experience like a 10-day cruise. Consider instead integrating “micro-experiences” into your weekly family routine. People who have more frequent social interactions live longer, healthier lives and experience less stress, depression, and feelings of isolation, says an article in Forbes magazine. Schedule some low-maintenance activities for you family throughout the month — these micro-experiences will add up to a lifetime of memories.

Gift Experiences to Your Friends

Experiences make good gifts for friends, too. Once, my wife and I found a special price on a weekend package at a luxury hotel and purchased one for each of my adult siblings and their spouses. Although it cost the same as other gift options we normally gave, it was the most appreciated gift we’ve ever given and each of them talked about it for years!

It’s not surprising that material things beyond our basic needs don’t significantly add to our happiness. Think about this the next time you buy a gift for someone or make a purchase for yourself!

This article has been adapted with permission from CCA’s Trailmap for Life program which helps parents prepare your teens for life. There are five fun and powerful sessions parents and teens do together with successful approaches in managing life’s toughest topics. Click here to learn more!


Chad Richard spent 20 years leading Marketing & Strategy for some of the world's leading brands. He is now the Founder of Trailmap for Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents prepare their teens for life. He and his wife, Carrie, attend Calvary Chapel Boca Raton along with their two children.
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