For Real Happiness Buy Experiences, Not Things

I recently discovered a new podcast, You Are Not So Smart, and really enjoyed an episode called Happy Money, focused on money and rewards. Shortly after that I read this article from Scientific American. The takeaway from both is simple: Buying experiences makes us happier than buying things.

Turns out a fair bit of research has been done regarding people’s perceptions of how much they’ll enjoy a thing before and after they buy something. We think we like buying things better because they give us more value, but we get more joy out of experiences. The reason is that we can place an objective value on a thing. “This bottle of Cantillon cost me $25 in 2013. I could probably sell it for $75 to $100 now.” Whereas memories and experiences have a much more subjective value to them. “I had an amazing time at that bottle share last month.” What is an “amazing time?” How much is it worth? Despite this, we pull more happiness out of the experience than the possession of material goods.

The study showed that this effect of enjoying experiences more than things increases with delayed satisfaction. That is when we buy a thing and pay for it now with the plan of experiencing it later we will enjoy it even more than if we bought it and enjoyed it immediately.

What does this have to do with beer?

Easy. Sharing is caring, plus it’s more fun! I can buy a bottle of Cantillon, take it home, and drink it that night. It’ll be a delicious experience, but science has shown that I’ll pull more joy from it if I buy it with the plan to hang onto it to share with my friends. I’m now creating the expectation of future enjoyment, creating an experience out of that enjoyment by sharing it with friends, having a good beer, having a good time, reinforcing friendships and/or making new ones.

I use Cantillon as an example for beer, but this same thing applies to wine, bourbon, or just about anything else in the universe. And Cantillon can be an extreme version of this for beer. Something as common around Cincinnati as PsycHOPathy or Two Hearted can still lead itself to this experience. I recently visited my brother in Austin who loves Two Hearted, but Bell’s doesn’t distribute to Texas. I knew he enjoyed Two Hearted, I knew I enjoyed Two Hearted, and I knew we’d have a great time having them together. All this led to a better experience than if I drank it at home alone.

And remember, you can’t take it with you when you leave! A 30-year-old bottle of Cantillon may taste great, but you won’t find out if you don’t live long enough to drink it.

So get a beer that’s special to you, regardless of if it’s Head Hunter or Heady Topper and share it with some friends over a game of cards. Science has proven that you’ll enjoy it a lot more that way than if you sit at home and just post a picture of you drinking it on some Facebook group.

One thought on “For Real Happiness Buy Experiences, Not Things”

  1. I’ve always thought experiences were more rewarding than things, good to know there is science behind that sentiment. You’ll get no argument from me that beer is always better shared.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: