I remember vividly the summer of 2006. My university friends were planning a trip to Dublin. I was 21 years old, and had never flown before. My mom is terrified of flying, so we never travelled far as kids. The furthest I had ventured was to Florida by car, and that was with someone else’s parents.
I was working in the Ontario Works office (aka social services, aka the dole). By any measure, I was earning a decent income, by any student’s standard. My colleagues, who were also full-time students, were smartly saving their salaries for tuition and rent for the upcoming school year. Me, on the other hand, I was spending my salary as if it was going out of fashion. New sunglasses, designer jeans, dinners out, you get the idea.
I was so careless with my money I would often spend the first few months of summer living it up, before realising I should save something for the year ahead. This usually meant that I held on tightly to the last few pay-checks and adopted a more frugal approach towards the end of summer.
By the time my friends were finalising plans for this trip, I was abandoning ship. Partly because I spent all my money that summer and really didn’t have any left to fly to Dublin, and partly because I was afraid to travel, as I had never really done it before.
The motto of the story is this: I prioritised possessions over experiences. The amount of money I spent on careless things could have easily covered the trip AND tuition that summer.
In the last few months I’ve come to adopt the mantra that experiences are more valuable than stuff, any day of the week. Do I really need another pair of metallic Birkenstock sandals when I already have a pair at home? Probably not. As much as I love jeans and as much as I see them as an investment in my wardrobe, would I rather acquire a new pair or buy sailing lessons instead? Sailing lessons.
The thing about stuff is it just multiplies, accumulates dust, and fills all your closets, drawers (even under your bed) with junk. It ends up causing you more burden than it’s worth. Experiences on the other hand, play a dramatic role in shaping you as a person. The return-on-investment for experiences is far greater than stuff. So whenever I feel the urge to buy clothes or material objects, I just think of my long bucket list of things I want to experience in life, and then I go and do them. It’s easy when you don’t have stuff holding you back.