Want a Gift That Lasts? Go For an Experience Over Material Goods

It has been said that money can’t buy you love — but it can buy you satisfaction, especially if you make the right purchase decision.

A study conducted by Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University professor of psychology and Travis J. Carter, a Cornell Ph.D., found that making a material purchase (watch, TV, jewelry) feels good at first, but actually makes people less happy as time goes on. Conversely, they found that making an experiential purchase (family vacation, concerts, helicopter flight, etc.) starts with a high satisfaction level and continues to grow over time.

Why are experiences more satisfying? For one thing, it’s harder to compare them to the experiences of others–experiences belong to you alone.

Here are some additional insights garnered from that Cornell study:

Experiences Are Easier to Choose

Participants reported that choices are harder to make for material products versus choices for experiential products, the study finds.

One reason this occurs is people have a hard time choosing one item at the expense of another. I’m sure you have watched a child trying to decide on a toy in a store, only to put it down and pick up another toy, place it back and pick up the first toy again. In the end, the child agonizes over the decision of which toy they should choose.

Another reason is that consumers tend to painstakingly compare all options when making a material purchase, but are more inclined to spend money on the first option that meets a set of expectations when purchasing an experience. For example, you might research the ratings and specifications of numerous televisions before settling on one, but if you are going to ski in Colorado, and a resort is offering a special on lodging and lift tickets, you are more inclined to choose that experience without doing further research. While you do think about planning the experience, you are not really comparing options.

Experiences Are More Satisfying

When asked about the choices made for material products, people reported that they found themselves less satisfied with the choice they made over time. When asked about experiences, though, they were more satisfied with their choice over time.

When we buy a material product, it is often easy for us to compare that product to similar ones. After the purchase is made, you can go to another store or to a friend’s house and find a bigger, better unit than the one you bought. This leaves you doubting your purchase decision or thinking about other units you might have purchased instead and better deals you passed up.

Experiences, on the other hand, are different. It is very hard to compare them. A trip to the mountains for snow skiing will provide vastly different experiences than a trip southwards to the beach. Your environment will be different as will your activities. Plus, even if your friends go on a similar vacation that might sound better, it will not bother you as much since you have memories that are specific to your experience and very different from their experiences.

Experiences Create Lasting Memories

A new material purchase may make you happy initially, but over time one quickly adapts to it and it fails to bring much joy any longer. Materials get old and wear out, needing to be replaced by something newer and better. The things you have are not psychologically a part of you.

Experiences, however, create lasting memories and are a part of you. The vacations you take, the concerts you attend, the movies you watch–these all become a central part of who you are. Even bad experiences often become stories that you will recount later on, and maybe even look back on and view in a different light.

Experiences become a part you psychologically and make you who you are. Experiential purchases give greater insight to who you are as a person rather than the material you acquire ou trouver du viagra.

So if you want to purchase enduring happiness this holiday season, opt for that family vacation, a Broadway show, or even a day at the spa over a new electronic device or a timepiece. Down the road, you’ll look back fondly and remember the great experience you had.


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