Yet another powerful benefit of spending money on experiences, not things: community

Take a photo, it’ll last longer.
Take a photo, it’ll last longer.
Image: Creative Commons
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If you decided to take a beach vacation rather than splurge on an Apple Watch this summer, you’re onto something. Studies have shown doing things makes people happier than having things. One widely acknowledged reason is the benefit of anticipation. Anyone who’s counted down the days to a trip or party knows it’s more pleasant and exciting than waiting in a long line at the Apple store.

But there’s another reason spending money on vacations tend to have more fulfilling payoffs than new gadgets, and it’s because talking about a purchase (pdf) is more important for experiences than possessions. Study participants were told to think of their two most significant purchases that were both vacations (experiences) and electronic gadgets (material objects), and given a choice: would you rather choose your most significant purchase and not tell anyone about it, or your second-most significant purchase and have the freedom to discuss it whenever a related topic arises?

As expected, 62% of participants wanted to settle for their second favorite vacation if it meant they could talk about it, rather than the top-rated vacation they couldn’t discuss with others. Twenty-two percent of respondents preferred discussing and showing off their second-best tech purchase.

Furthermore, some participants believed that discussing an experience with a friend comprised as much as one-third of their enjoyment with the purchase. This means that if you don’t freely discuss your vacation when coworkers ask where you’ve been, even after the fact, you could be losing a significant amount of the purchase-derived happiness you might otherwise have.

There’s also the simple explanation that discussing material purchases could feel like unnatural boasting, and generally isn’t as celebrated as discussing a recent experience. The researchers noted that participants generally tend to naturally bring up an experience, when asked to discuss a big purchase.

The study, however, only examined talking about purchases in the form of storytelling. Whether increased enjoyment also applies to sharing your experiences on Facebook or Instagram remains to be seen.

So if you have the back-to-work blues and want to relive those blissful vacation vibes, tell your friend or coworker about it. Or, better yet, ask them how their most recent vacation was and swap experiential stories. You’ll both feel happier afterwards.