I’ll admit something embarrassing: I’ve read a lot of self-help books, the kind of books that tell you to simplify your life, to focus on being grateful for what you have rather than whining about what you don’t have, yada yada yada.
All of these books have one thing in common:
They always tell you that it’s better to spend your money on “experiences”—going out with friends, seeing a play or movie, a day at the beach—than on accumulating “things”—like knickknacks, books, or collectibles.
In my humble opinion, based on my (almost) 47 years of experience, this advice is dead wrong.
Now, I’ll grant you that this might be one of the many cases where what works for everybody else is terrible for me.
Take protein, for example. Everybody claims that a protein-heavy meal should fill you up for hours, but for me, eating protein leaves me wild with hunger, but eating lots of carbs fills me up and leaves me feeling satisfied for ages.
Maybe the “things versus experiences” debate is like that, but all I can say for sure is that I’ve never had an “experience” that even came close to comparing to the crappiest little “thing.”
Do I just have boring people in my life?
Why is it that an evening with “friends” feels like torture, but browsing the aisles at Barnes and Noble all by my lonesome is heaven? Why do I remember the gift shops at various tourist attractions more than I remember the TOUR?
To me, experiences are always disappointing. And don’t try to tell me that I’m building things up too much in my mind, so I’m setting myself up for failure. If anything, I go in hoping only to SURVIVE. My expectations are about as low as they can get, so it IS strange that dinners, movies, or whatever other outings I try are almost always awful.
Case in point: All I can remember from my childhood class trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (besides the overwhelming stench of urine inside the “Heart” exhibit) is buying astronaut ice cream in the gift shop. Clearly, one of the country’s most respected science museums made a big impression on me.
And more casual experiences, like lunch out with friends, are no better.
I go in each time thinking THIS one could be different. This time, we’ll have laughs and create memories. This time, it will be a bona fide “experience.” Instead, my friends end up blathering about the meal they had last time they were at the same restaurant or how the premium on their life insurance policy just went up.
Seriously? Is there NOTHING more interesting these people can think of to discuss, in this huge, crazy world of ours?
And don’t tell me I should speak up, steer the conversation in a better direction. For someone as painfully shy as I am, just BEING there is hard enough. I can’t do all the conversational work, too.
Basically, I come away from “experiences” wishing I could blow my brains out. But “things”—like the books I might pick up at Barnes and Noble or the souvenir I choose at the museum gift shop—always make me smile, even for years after I first bought them, even if they cost mere pennies.
Things let me experience the memory I HOPED for, rather than the lousy one I actually got.
So, I say: Forget the experiences (unless you’re lucky enough to have MUCH better friends and MUCH better museums and movies than the ones to which I have access). If I get to choose, bring on the things.