When we see other people doing cool things like traveling the world, teaching part-time scuba lessons, doing a thru-hike, etc, we often think: “I wish I had the freedom to do that”. We can have this freedom. One of the biggest ways to attain this is by reducing or eliminating our dependence on money.
While adventures can be cheap, they usually require at least some cash, and it is important to be able to control it. Over the next few posts I’m going to introduce three ideas that will give you the power to use it for adventure. These are meant to be broad guidelines that can help everyone start saving for exciting experiences. This won’t necessarily make you incredibly wealthy, but being able to travel and get outdoors on your own terms will make you feel rich!
IDEA #1: BUY EXPERIENCES, NOT STUFF
Buying less material goods and more experiences will not only saves money, it makes life more exciting, increasing happiness and fulfillment! How is this possible?
Stuff is expensive. Think of the last item you spent “a lot” of money on. This could be dress shoes, a television, or a luxury sedan, depending on how elegant you are. Now think of how many experiences you could have bought with that money.
Shoes = weekend of hiking/backpacking
TV = A roadtrip with friends
Vehicle = Both of the above and an extended trip overseas
While these examples are very simplistic, they illustrate the true cost of stuff. Compared to the number of items in any given place of residence, the cost of adventure is actually quite cheap. When you hold the item up next to the experience, most of the time we see the experience as a better value and more worth the money.
Stuff doesn’t lead to long term happiness. New stuff always turns old, but experiences are forever. When we are asked to provide a happy memory, does unwrapping a new TV a few years ago come to mind? Probably not, the TV probably even looks old and dated now compared to new models. More likely we think of an exciting trip, finishing a marathon, or simply spending time with friends and family. Why buy a new TV when you can buy a memorable experience? Adjust your viewpoint on life to take the emphasis off having stuff, and happiness will follow.
Still, it would be naive to say that material goods can never add happiness to life. Many of the things we own make our lives easier and better, and going without them could certainly reduce our quality of life. Yet, there are many more things that we own that (upon close inspection) add little or no benefit to our days. Identify what you need, and don’t spend your resources on waste. It may be helpful to think of this as a form of “minimalism”. No need to live in barren apartment with no furniture, but other aspects of it such as reducing waste and clutter often overlap with frugality.
Too much stuff can actually prevent experiences. It’s common in America to have a blasé attitude regarding debt. Unfortunately, when we buy stuff we can’t afford we are in effect locking a ball and chain to our leg. When paying of my student debt I felt I couldn’t take any time off work, and my second job sapped even more of my time. I had no room in my life to do what really mattered to me, and it seemed that I had no options but to keep working. Debt cuts off our freedom and locks us into being dependent on our jobs.
Additionally, too much stuff actually drains your mental energy and make it difficult to focus. For example, say you’ve had a lifelong dream to learn to play piano. You’ve decided that this is the year that you will learn, finally! In which room below will you be more likely to successfully learn how to play piano?
A room that contains a piano and lesson books, and nothing else
A room with a piano, lesson books, a pile of DVDs, 40 books you haven’t read, your closet with all the clothes on the floor, your pile of bills, and a shelf full of board games.
The stuff may vary, but clearly the first option is going to lead to quicker results. It will be much easier to plan that next adventure with a clear and focused mind.
Lastly, embrace experiences! There are a million excuses that hold us back from taking that skiing trip, trying out rock climbing, or even learning to cook*. It’s always easier to get started another time. However, the excuses never really go away. I find that even if I’m incredibly nervous about something, the nerves disappear after I take that first step. I suspect that this is true for most of us, so squash those obstacles and get started now! You’ll find that experiences are cheaper and more memorable than a stuff addiction, and also increase your happiness as a nice side benefit.
What is your opinion about experiences vs. stuff? What stuff is worth the money? Comment below if you have anything to add!
See you next time for idea #2!