I’ve just celebrated my 40th birthday with friends and family in my local pub and it’s made me consider the old “experiences versus material possessions” debate. The theory that you should spend your money on experiences and travelling rather than “things” – We’ve all seen the studies, those that suggest new “things” are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them, whereas a holiday or experience supposedly stays with us forever.
Well in an attempt to back the “experiences” camp, this weekend’s birthday celebrations made me realise that the expensive Tag watch I wanted to treat myself with would have been a lovely (but slightly grandiose) 40th birthday keepsake, but the cheap Casio digital watch a group of my best friends bought me last weekend feels more special, tells the time just as well, saves me £££s in the process … and only cost them £14.99 too. And the experience of opening it in front of everyone …was well …priceless.
So in turn, backing the “things” camp … well I do love my iPhone 6 as that allows me to do ever so much and keeps me in contact with all my friends on Whatsapp. Admittedly I’d find it hard to do without it. Apart from that there’s my Brompton fold-up bike, which serves as a great way to commute into London and my MR2 “sports” car, but having owned it for over 12 years now the “thrill” has long since gone, and it’s much more a functional item now for getting from A to B. If it was a cheap Ford Fiesta it would serve its purpose just as well – if not better – like when trying to buy something bulky from B&Q. The wow factor of a recent wireless speaker purchase wore off extremely quickly and now I find I rarely use it at all.
But the “experiences” I’ve had leave a far longer lasting and satisfying memory. Like the time I trekked to Everest Base Camp back in 2012 and had a group photo in the high altitude sunshine with the rest of the group, the Full Moon photo in Koh Phangan with the Swedish girls and lads from Middlesborough I met in Hanoi just weeks earlier, completing the ‘RideLondon 100’ with my oldest pal Dan even though we got “photobombed” on the line by a beaming OAP, running 8 miles around Central Park with a famous supermodel (Christy Turlington) whose charity I’m now UK ambassador for, attempting to swim in the cold Welsh sea in November with my girlfriend Claire after a wedding the night before, even having a reflexology treatment with another friend Claire to experience what that feels like too. All of these “experiences” stick far more in the memory than “things” which is why the £££s I wanted to spend on “stuff” like that watch is going to be spent first on “experiences”with friends and family instead.
In fact rather than gaining more “stuff” I’m aiming to start having less, apart from the essentials that everybody needs to run and decorate a home that is. That might mean eBaying/gifting many “odds and sods” but I believe that less is more and we all have too much stuff cluttering up our lives anyway. And then not buying more “stuff” to replace the “stuff” I’ve just got rid of! NB. I don’t have children, so yes – I’m more than aware that when you have a family the amount of default “stuff” has to go up.
Another footnote to the 4-5 experiences above is that yes, trekking to Everest and flying to New York all involved having the money … but it’s money I’ve decided to spend that way rather than collecting a whole room full of gadgetry. One of my best experiences recently was cycling around Hertfordshire with a group of friends on a bike ride and that was pretty much free (apart from the entry free), and swimming in the cold Welsh sea was completely free!
Also reinforcing this drive to de-clutter is the recollection I have after returning from 6 months of travelling back in 2010 with just a rucksack full of possessions to realise how little “stuff” we actually need. On landing at Heathrow I was adamant I’d do a complete “de-clutter” … but I left it too long and within weeks I became unable to part with things again. This time I will be stronger 🙂