Humans are creatures constantly plagued by internal conflict. We often do things we know are bad for us or repeat unhealthy behaviors even though we know the results.
According to a recent study covered by the Scientific American’s Podcast, how we choose to spend our money is one of the major places that internal conflict manifests itself.
The findings of the survey show that most people believe their money is better spent on experiences such as travel or entertainment but still choose to spend the majority of their money on material goods.
Most people feel that they will get more satisfaction out of some type of unique experience but still opt to purchase items. Even after making the purchase, those surveyed said they regretted the decision and wish they had spent the money on an experience instead of the electronic or clothing item that they opted for.
So why the blatant disregard for gut feeling in this situation? The Scientific American’s explanation is that people have trouble quantifying experience but can more easily understand the value of goods. The example they use is a car vs. driving a car across the country. The car has a defined value, while the roadtrip experience can’t be quantified as easily. There is probably some merit to this explanation, but it seems a bit simplistic for such incongruous decision making.
One of the potential explanations could be the lack of risk that comes with buying an item. If you feel down, it’s very easy to fill the hole with a new pair of shoes without really having to leave your comfort zone. Taking a leap like traveling somewhere you’ve never been will be more satisfying but will be harder to make a reality. This goes hand in hand with the old saying that nothing worth doing is easy.
In short, if you’re trying to decide how to spend your money, always err on the side of experience over stuff. It might be the more difficult decision but it will pay off in how satisfied you feel afterwards.