The latest issue of Money Magazine has an interesting blurb from Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and “The Upside of Irrationality.” In it, he tackles the issue of why you don’t necessarily get more (or lasting) enjoyment from the things that you buy.
“Why don’t you get more enjoyment from the things you buy? Because you get used to increases in your standard of living.”
Behavioral economists refer to this ongoing pursuit of happiness as the hedonic treadmill. Because you so rapidly adapt to your current circumstances and become habituated to the good (or bad) in your life, it’s difficult to get ahead.
So how can you get ahead? According to Ariely:
“The best way to maximize happiness is to spend money on things you won’t get used to… So if you’re deciding between a sofa and a vacation, go for the vacation. You’ll quickly get used to the sofa, but the vacation will bring long-lasting memories.”
In other words, focus on accumulating memories instead of stuff. All in all, I tend to agree with Ariely. My wife and I much prefer to splurge on travel vs. everyday purchases, as we get far more enjoyment out of family vacations than the latest gadget or doodad.
This isn’t to say that we go overboard on our destinations or accommodations, but we’d much prefer to spend extra time (and money) creating memories together as a family vs. accumulating more stuff in search of fulfillment.