I saw full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal just before Christmas from AT&T that said: Put the “happy” in holidays. That was incredibly distasteful to me. The iPhone 6 is not what makes holidays happy. Neither you nor your family members are going to remember 20 years from now the happy moment created by you buying them an iPhone. They will remember the time spent together as a family or with friends, and other experiences.
I’ve written a bunch of times about the value of experiences over things—about spending your money and time on experiences rather than stuff. In a recent newsletter, I said the following:
“I feel fortunate (and grateful) that investing my time and money in experiences comes more naturally to me than buying material things. I’m sure my parents are partly responsible. They took trips. They took us on trips. When I was a kid I asked my parents why they always bought Buicks and Fords when my best friend’s parents drove a Cadillac and a Corvette. “Each family makes its own choices of what’s important. We go on vacations,” they told me.
Not surprisingly, family vacations from my childhood, like the time we spent the better part of a month driving up the east coast from Florida to New Jersey, are unforgettable to me, and what types of car my parents drove is the least important thing in my memory—or maybe it’s the most important thing, which is why I drive a Honda, and love taking trips and attending concerts.
I received a lot of feedback on my newsletter piece. Here’s an excerpt from a note from a college friend now living in the UK:
“We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with another American family on Sunday. Our 17 year-old daughter brought her British boyfriend. At the end of the evening he said how nice it was, especially as we went around the table saying what we were thankful for. My 10 year-old son said he was thankful for Thanksgiving so we could say what we were thankful for. He was also thankful for his puppy which we got over the summer.”
The puppy comment ties into something I read just after that. An op-ed piece in the New York Times about abundance and attachment recommended, among other things, collecting experiences, not things, as a happiness secret. I was reading the reader comments afterwards (which are often as good as, or even better than, the articles or op-ed pieces themselves—crowdsourcing can produce tremendously valuable thinking.) One commenter clarified the definition of stuff. “Needing” the newest, latest device, when the one you have is good enough is stuff. Buying a kid a guitar, or a bike (or a puppy) with which your child goes on to have incredible experiences, is something else.
What do you think? Please join the conversation with your comments…