Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things

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Managing Your Money
Do you spend your money on experiences, or do you use it to buy things that end up wasting away in your living space? Focus on what's meaningful instead.

I recently helped a friend move cities. She had gotten a new exciting and grown-up job as a director at a company in a city about 3 hours away. She had to pack up her entire life and move it in a short time.

As a friend, it was my job to be there with the tunes and the arms to help her get it done. After she had gathered her stuff from around the entire house and was trying to get it into boxes, it struck us both: she had so much stuff.

Where had it all come from? When had all of this stuff even gotten into her apartment? Most importantly, I wondered as I wrapped her globe (yes, a globe!) in newspaper, how much had all of this stuff cost her in total?

If you take a look around your room, house, or apartment, you’ll notice that you own things. Some of them are pretty necessary, like dishes and beds. Some of them are weird knickknacks your parents sent to you, and some stuff might be things friends forgot at your place.

I bet most of it is owned by you, though. Whether it’s clothing, books, movies or furniture, we all have our own pile of stuff. And most of it probably cost you some amount of money.

We as human beings spend a ton of money on stuff. If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time passing up a sale or a “good deal.” It might be something you see on Groupon, something you buy using coupons, or just an old fashioned 2-for-1 at the grocery store. Deals make us think we’re spending our money responsibly.

Where Does the Money GO?

To be fair, sometimes we are. A 2-for-1 sale on shampoo isn’t a bad idea when you know you’ll use it. A 2-for-1 on that striped Ottoman is another story.

Do you really need two? Were the stripes a good idea? All too often, we do what I like the call the “swipe and poof.” Swipe with the debit/credit card, and poof, your money is gone.

Not all items are a bad deal or a waste of your money. But you need to evaluate your purchases first. Do you need to buy a new dress for your cousin’s wedding? Would it be better to spend your money taking a road trip up the coast with your cousin before the big day?

I think about it this way: I could buy take-out for dinner every night for a month, or I could take that $400 and fly to Central America.

The thing is, goods can break or be lost. Clothes and furnishings go in and out of style. Poorly made items need to be replaced often, and well-made things will cost you more overall.

Experience vs Things

Experiences can never be replaced. They can never be taken from you in any way. Things like skydiving or climbing the Eiffel Tower will stick with you longer and mean more than whatever you pick up at Target this week.

Look back at your favorite memories. Do they include that shopping spree at the mall or the stuff you purchased online when you weren’t in the right frame of mind?

Or are they time spent with family and friends, accomplishments you poured your heart into, or learning new things?

When you get to the heart of the matter, you realize this: every person on this planet has (relatively speaking) a short amount of time and a finite amount of money. What do you want to do with both?

You already spend a good amount of your life earning that cash. Do you truly want to spend it on something like the burger place down the street, or Calvin Klein’s latest purse?

Would either of those mean more to you to than spending the same amount of money on a surprise trip home to see your family? How about taking a long weekend vacation with your significant other?

That’s the thing. The amounts may seem small in the moment, and they often are. $8 for a t-shirt, $30 for a meal out, $12 for a new pair of sunglasses.

After a month though, all of a sudden you’ve spent the equivalent of a plane ticket on stuff. On meaningless things that you leave on coffee tables and desks.

The Bottom Line

For better or worse, we’re all tied to money. How does the saying go…nothing is certain in life except death and taxes? I think “taxes” can stand in here for “money” as a whole.

What we do have control over is how we spend it. I know that spending $40 on a dress I’ve only worn once is a purchase I’ll regret. That same $40 could have netted me almost a whole minimum loan payment or a bus ticket to see my friend in her new city. Both are significantly more meaningful to me than that dress ever will be.

Spend your money where you want to. No one can tell you not to do that. We all have different value systems. Just make sure you’re not throwing away an experience you’ll keep forever for the latest season’s trends.

Are you guilty of spending your money on too much stuff? Do you value experiences over things? 

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