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Money and Happiness: Experiences VS “Plastic Crap”

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Artist: Crystal Johnson

Have you ever had the thought, “I wish I had something to look forward to!”? When that thought occurs, what are you really wishing for? Are you hoping for a fun experience, or are you hoping for a new toy?

A Trait of Happy People

Happy people buy experiences, not objects. “[A] wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”[1] Throughout your life, people will say anything to get you to buy their product. They try to lure you in by telling you their product is the latest trend, or the item most worth your money. When these thoughts come, remember that your money is your tool to living the life that you want to live.

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Experiencing Dinosaurs: I’m the Kid in the Blue Soccer Jersey

Some Professional Opinions

“If you’re a materialistic individual and life suddenly takes a wrong turn you’re going to have a tougher time recovering from that setback.”[2] Materialistic people who turn to shopping or other types of spending are “likely to [experience] even greater stress and lower well-being.”[3]

Individuals who focus their life on financial success are more likely to have problems adjusting to life and also are likely to have lower well-being.

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Klondike: Bobsled Competition for Boy Scouting
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Experiencing Canoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Importantly, it affects our satisfaction with life. Ed Diener, Happiness expert and psychology professor at the University of Illinois said that “[materialism] is open-ended and goes on forever—we can always want more, which is usually not true of other goals such as friendship”.[4]

Basically, Spend your money where it counts. Material things are a necessity, but moderation can help you to live a more fulfilling life.

Need, Want, Luxury.

There is a simple scale called: Need, Want, Luxury. You need transportation to and from work. You want to drive a car. A luxury  for me might be to drive a 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage (okay, weak sauce, but that’s the car I want to drive. That baby gets like 42 MPG!) (Okay, it may not be a luxury topping out at about $8,000).

You may be able to fulfill your need with public transportation to work, maybe you live close enough to school or work that a bicycle will do. The Important part is that your basic needs are fulfilled.

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My Needs Are Filled: Everything Extra is Icing. Don’t Let Icing Distract You From The Cake

After that, your money is Discretionary. Carl Richards, of Behaviour Gap, asks if we really do connect what is important to us and how we spend our money.[5] What is most important to you? Why do you spend the way you do? Do your spending habits come from your community, your parents, or others? That’s probably a strong source of where your money discontentment comes from. How will you change that?

Spend money on things you value, but also on experiences. Valuable experiences can often seem to be counter-intuitive when considering the cost. I recently got a gym membership. I have a free gym at my school, It’s just as nice or nicer than the gym my membership is at. Why would I pay when I have a free gym? It’s worth paying for that membership because of the experience it is with my two childhood friends. The three of us go and have a good laugh, some good lifting, and a friendship that pays me not in money, but in physical health and friendship.

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Volunteering with Hot Air Balloons

 

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   Competitive Ballroom Dance

Science and Money-Happiness

You will be happier if you spend money on things you can experience, but people “still choose to spend their money on material items because they think they’re of greater value.”[6]

Experiences have the power to make us happier. According to researcher Mr. Killingsworth,

“Minds tend to wander to dark, not whimsical, places. Unless that mind has something exciting to anticipate or sweet to remember.” Doctoral Candidate Amit Kumar’s research showed “when you can’t live in a moment, they say, it’s best to live in anticipation of an experience. Experiential purchases like trips, concerts, movies, et cetera, tend to trump material purchases because the utility of buying anything really starts accruing before you buy it.”[7]

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Boat! (Or Getting Stuck)
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 Touring New York
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Pyramid On Top of a Mountain
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Visiting an Indian Reservation
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Removing 400 Cubic Yards of a Forest at a Women’s Shelter in Gore, New Zealand

My Story

I remember being on the beach in New Zealand, standing with my Samoan friend as we watched an airplane fly directly over our head, yet again. Old bricks from houses built during the Great War scattered the seashore. This was the happiest moment of my life. My time, my effort, and my money were devoted to the experiences I wanted to create. I had decided to participate in a ministry for two years. I was a volunteer, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I met with other ministers to try to grow religious involvement in communities, taught lessons and scripture classes with groups and in the homes of families, and actively participated in service projects – vandalism clean up, fence and trail repair, service in soup kitchens, and horseback riding lessons for the disabled were among the many service projects I participated in.

Aside from a green-stone necklace from a dear friend, a few lavalavas, and some Weetabix All Blacks collector cards, I’m not sure I have any tangible souvenirs from that experience; my memories of sitting on a beach with my Samoan friend and watching countless airplanes fly directly overhead offer me some of the greatest and happiest memories of my life.

If you’re going to devote your time, effort and money toward something, wouldn’t you rather it be an experience that may bring anticipation, excitement, and prolonged joyful remembrance? Consider that next time you’re about to buy what I call “plastic crap” or non-essential material things.

Next week I’ll talk about some techniques for crafting your own personal vision so you can start aligning your values and money and avoid the “plastic crap” mind-set.

Jacob Johnson
-Jacob is a fidget-er who is always changing things, He spends his time making vision boards, experiencing things, and perusing business cards from years ago. If you want to add to his business card collection, send him one!

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Articles:

Experiences Vs Crap Design by Crystal Johnson.

[1] Hamblin, James. “Buy Experiences, Not Things.” The Atlantic, 7 Oct. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/buy-experiences/381132/

[2] Ruvio, A., Somer, E. & Rindfleisch, A. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2014) 42: 90. doi:10.1007/s11747-013-0345-6,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/materialism-health-effects_n_4344056.html

[3] Ruvio, A., Somer, E. & Rindfleisch, A. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2014) 42: 90. doi:10.1007/s11747-013-0345-6
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/materialism-health-effects_n_4344056.html

[4] Diener, Ed. “6 Reasons Why People – Not Things – Will Make You Happier.” The Huffington Post, 2 December 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/materialism-health-effects_n_4344056.html

[5] Richards, Carl. “Do Your Values Align with Your Money & Time?” Behavior Gap, 22 April, 2015, www.behaviorgap.com/do-your-values-align-with-your-money-time/

[6] “Proof That Life Experiences — Not Things — Make You Happier.” The Huffington Post, 3 April 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/life-experiences-happier-material-things_n_5072591.html

[7] Hamblin, James. “Buy Experiences, Not Things.” The Atlantic, 7 Oct. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/buy-experiences/381132/

 

Here are A Bunch of other Experiences!

 

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Parenting: Whats A Good Allowance? How to teach your children REAL money lessons.

When I was a kid, we didn’t get an allowance. Sure, we could earn some things from doing extra chores, or get a little bit of an allowance on vacation to buy a souvenir or something extra, but weekly or monthly just for doing things? Nope.

I want to give you parents some idea of what the typical American gives their children, what the typical American pays their children, and some ways to build an entrepreneurial and financially sound mind in your children.

My Dad is a business man. He has managed for JC Penny’s, Home Depot, Toys ‘R’ Us, and some other similar businesses. He’s also worked in sales, selling software and hardware solutions to governments and schools. Needless to say, he worked hard.

And we worked hard…

 

We weeded gardens, helped plant trees, I learned how to make straight rows, and we cleaned our entire house each week. The six of us children had the house organized into six ‘zones’ we would rotate cleaning. We had a rotating list of household chores too; sweeping floors, dust fans, take out garbage, wash dishes, set table for meals, mow lawn, etc.

This isn’t about cleaning though, this is about money, and how parents think about and use it. My friends at COUNTRY Financial whipped up this lovely little chart for me.

Chore U.S. Average
Mowing the Lawn $6.28
Cleaning the Garage $5.20
Doing Laundry $2.82
Cleaning a Common Area $2.72
(i.e. living room, dining room, kitchen, etc.)
Be Responsible for a Pet $2.66
(i.e. feeding, walking, cleaning up after it)
Vacuuming / Cleaning Floors $2.55
Cleaning Surfaces $2.20
(i.e. dusting or washing countertops)
Cleaning the Bedroom $2.07
Doing the Dishes $2.03
Taking Out the Garbage $1.90
Setting the Table $1.31
Making the Bed $1.18

Americans are pretty good about wanting to teach their children about finance, but they want to teach it for the wrong reasons.

68 percent of Americans believe children should receive an allowance for completing chores. Furthermore, of the people who are currently providing kids with an allowance, more than half (54 percent) did so to teach their children money needs to be earned. A further 22 percent wanted to teach their kids the value of money, while only 12 percent said it was to teach them financial independence.

A Proper Allowance

$0. That’s just a fact. I’m being honest! Don’t give your kids money just for the sake of money.

The best reason to create and utilize a chore / payment type system is to teach your children that money is earned and that they can be financially independent. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t pay your kids to do their chores, but at least having them do chores will help you teach them.

Independence

Independence is a skill that is taught, much like optimism, cooking breakfast, or welding. It takes time, patience, and a good teacher.

I recently was listening to Radical Personal Finance and his podcast about what he’s planning to teach his children when they turn 8 years old. His ideas were great! Here are a few of my own ideas too.

Teaching Skills

Spend time teaching your kids employable skills. They can learn to pull weeds, paint fences, sew dresses, clean toilets, cut wood, rake leaves, mow lawns, trim trees, keep pets, and more. Realize that each skill is something a child can do to make a dollar too! My father from a very young age would point out to me things I did that others would pay me to do.

I loved computers, and learned data systems pretty quick. Dad paid me to use his client database online: updating his contacts, notes, follow up appointments, leads, and referrals. He’d email them to me in a big spreadsheet as frequently as needed. He taught me that I could make money with my skills.

My dad at the age of 13 took me to the Flying Wrench class on fixing small engines. The next several summers I brought several lawnmowers back from the dead, replaced blades, fixed carburettors, shear pins, broken oil tanks, and a million other small repairs. Dad’s $75 investment was worth it.

Teaching Entrepreneurship

You can cultivate the idea of entrepreneurship and business in a child. Who hasn’t done a lemonade stand? Let’s think bigger though. I read an article about a child who negotiated with his neighbours to talk their garbage out every trash day for a quarter. Talk about a business! If a 10 year old kid has 50 garbage cans, that’s $12.50 every time he takes out the trash! My dad taught me some valuable lessons about entrepreneurship.

When I was about 15, a fellow home-schooling family, which produced educational materials, had a shortage in little wooden catapults. After a short debate and a set on price per kit produced, a delivery of two-by-fours and wooden sheets arrived.

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The Ultimate Catapult

I hired my siblings and got to work. I learned to keep a time sheet, to negotiate work schedules (okay, I’m dreaming a little bit), to build positive relationships, to use saws, drills, and sanders, and how to mass produce for time efficiency. Thanks, Dad. I ended up making about $25 an hour based on how much we were paid vs how much we worked on our time sheet.

There are so many ways to make money! Joshua Sheats from Radical Personal Finance says to build the entrepreneurial spirit, why not pay your neighbour to pay your kid to clean their bathroom? Why not see if your kid will take all those extra apricots from your tree and sell them to neighbours? They can learn to negotiate, they can learn about selling. They can learn about commissions. Tell them that you get a cut because it’s your tree. Or you get a piece of it because you bought the lawnmower. My friend Flia from the guest post told me that her brother outright bought his own lawnmower. That’s an entrepreneur.

Cultivating a successful atmosphere

How do you create that success in your child? It takes some commitment as a parent. It takes genuine desire for your child to become great and independent. You have to give them a vision and work at it every day. You also have to be an example.

I’m not a parent yet, but I’m grateful for the example my mother is. My mother made her own way. She paid for school working three jobs and paid for piano, voice, guitar, and cheerleading on her own. What a REAL entrepreneur. She had a dream. When you have a dream, you can accomplish amazing things. She is an example to me by always teaching piano, guitar, voice, and volunteering her time to what she loves. Storytelling is her passion, and she started her own scary story contest, and her own Utah’s Biggest Liar’s CompetitionAnd she has 6 children.

Last Words

I’m calling for parents to look for ways to craft their children into financial freedom, independence, and the ability to find satisfying work that will give them optimism, control, and confidence.

Share with me how you’re doing that! Share with me what your parents taught you!
[email protected]

 

-Jacob Brad Johnson
Jacob is a student of Personal Financial Planning at Utah Valley University. He enjoys counselling fellow students at UVU’s MMRC, volunteering for the Timpanogas storytelling festival, and late night taco runs. He wears a pink tie to church every first sunday of the month, and loves to share his favorite financial tips, tricks and ideas weekly on his blog.

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Thanks Dad!

I love to collaborate on podcasts and projects!

-Thanks to many friends and family who weighed in on this post! I feel so supported by the amazing writers and bloggers I know!