How to be happy with what you have? Buy experiences not things with your money. Let me show you why this will give you a high happiness ROI (Return on Investment). Truths in life.  | https://www.frugalconfessions.com/entertainment/how-to-reap-high-happiness-roi.php

Buy experiences not things if you want to maximize your happiness ROI (Return on Investment).

Many of us have learned over the years that physical things do not make us happy. Sure, there’s the fleeting excitement of making a new purchase and playing with a shiny, new toy. But if you are looking for real, bone-deep happiness, then spending money on items is not the way to go.

If you're looking for real, bone-deep happiness, then spending money on items is not the way to go. Click To Tweet

Does that mean that spending money does not bring happiness at all?

It turns out that it depends on what you purchase with your money. When given a choice of what to purchase, using your money towards an experience is better than spending your money on an item. Study author Ryan Howell, from San Francisco State University, first introduced this concept when he presented his findings at the 2009 annual meeting of Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

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Why Do Experiences Make us Happier than Things?

Howell found several reasons for why experiences make us happier than things, starting with “memory capital.” You might get bored with a new item after six months or so, but having an experience to remember and think about will bring repeated happiness over a lifetime. Experiences also make us feel alive by increasing our sense of “vitality, vigor, and sense of being connected with your social world.” Finally, experiences are less susceptible to social comparison than belongings (i.e. you may look at your neighbor’s new flat screen television with a green eye, but comparing your last canoe trip to your neighbor’s canoe trip is not as likely).

Here’s the Exciting Part: A High ROI

What excites my frugal heart about this psychologist’s findings is that the cost of the experience doesn’t matter in terms of the amount of happiness it will bring. So long as it is an experience, you can spend $0 or $3,000 and you should still gain the same amount of happiness. How great is that? This means that last Saturday when I learned how to bake my grandmother’s famous chocolate cake with her beside me, she and I reaped just as much happiness and memory capital as a couple who spent $50 going to dinner and a movie. Yet our checking accounts stayed intact!

Cheap or Free Experiences to Bring Happiness without Eroding Wealth

Here are a few ideas to start reaping some happiness without breaking the bank.

  • Board Game Potlucks: Once every other month or so I go to a friend’s house for her board game potlucks. These are so much fun! I get to compete against others, learn a new game, socialize, and then we all bring ingredients or dishes to help with a meal afterwards. The cost is very low, and the social and entertainment value is very high!
  • Wine Tasting: Wine tastings typically cost $0-$10. There are lots of places around Houston and outside of Houston to do this, and you can do some research to find wineries and vineyards near your own town. Get a group of friends together or your significant other and experience either local or global wines. If one wine tasting place is not enough, then map out a few to travel to (ensuring you have a designated driver).
  •  Meet Up for Coffee: In the last several months I have met up with two different friends at a coffee shop. For less than $5 we spent a few hours chatting, giggling, and having a great time just catching up with each other.

Howell states that, “surprisingly little is known about the processes by which one may resist urges to buy material items and invest in experiential consumption.” While he and his team continue to figure that out, I hope you will implement his current findings into your life by choosing to spend small amounts of money on experiences rather than on things. Here’s to greater ROIs (return on investments) for all of us!

25 replies
  1. Money Beagle
    Money Beagle says:

    There are a group of friends that I used to see regularly that I now see very infrequently, simply because now we all have families and we’ve moved further and further apart as circumstances have led for us. It’s funny because when we get together, there’s one guy that always wants to do something like go golfing or go to a great restaurant or something else, and I have to point out (every time) that it’s more about seeing each other and catching up than doing something spectacular (that’s also expensive).

    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      That stinks that one person always wants to do something expensive. It’s nice every once in awhile, but you are right, it should not be a deterrent for you all to get together.

  2. cj
    cj says:

    Fantastic post!! My wife and I just wrote a book together. This actually cost next to nothing, but the experience has been profound, unforgettable, exhilarating. Oh, and we wrote just about the entire book at our two-person coffee meet-ups each morning. Very cool backing this up with a scientific study too! Thanks!

    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      How neat that you guys wrote a book together! I think that’s an awesome idea. I also like that you do coffee meet-ups each morning.

  3. David
    David says:

    This is such a wonderful post! My girlfriend and me were recently discussing this because I am very fiscally conservative and she is not yet we never let discussions of finances interrupt our relationship and the happiness we both bring to each other’s lives. Great Share!

    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Paul and I have certainly taken on more of each other’s traits with money (he was never a big spender, but moreso than I am, and of course I am much more frugal than he was to begin with). It’s interesting to see how a couple meets in the middle after taking on some of each other’s traits. For us, it was a good thing, as I needed to open up a little bit about money and he needed to buckle down a little bit more. I hope the same sort of thing happens for you guys.

  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    Having fun and generating great experiences don’t have to be expensive. Buying stuff is fun too, but the high wears off so quickly. We don’t have room for more junks anyway.

    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Neither do we! I love to keep things simple and uncluttered; I find that it really allows me more mental space and energy to create.

    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      Ooohhh, I knit as well! I just joined a knitting group that meets about once a month only two miles from home. Can’t beat that!

  5. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    Awww, I’m so glad you like our potlucks!!! Or at least, I am assuming you are talking about ours, lol. They give me a great happiness ROI too (less than $30 usually spent for the main dish and some potluck basics and hours and hours of fun).

    I also agree that coffee shop meetups are fun and cheap too. I am also a big fan of rotating movie nights at different friends’ homes every week. 🙂

    • Amanda L Grossman
      Amanda L Grossman says:

      Hey Crystal,

      I am definitely talking about your potlucks! It’s nice to have a group of people who enjoy board games and eating together;) (and equally nice to be invited to it!).

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  9. […] How To Reap High Happiness ROI: Amanda does a great job explaining “memory capital.” You might get bored with a new item after six months or so, but having an experience to remember and think about will bring repeated happiness over a lifetime. If more people placed effort and minimal capital into this concept I believe they’d find their wallets a lot thicker. […]

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