Decision Making; Spending Money on Things or Experience

A thought crept into my mind while sitting at my desk at the office last week. I had to take a decision about an expenditure I was about to make. I have been indecisive about it simply because I was taking my time in conceiving how much change or impact my final option would have on my life.

In trying to be decisive, I had a retrospection of last year’s event. The retrospection should aid in taking me out of my current indecisiveness. I went over some of the decisions I took last year, the strategy I used in taking them should help me in deciding what I have at stake. Some of the results of those decisions I took last year stare at me daily in the office.

Standing conspicuously on my office desk are 3 memorabilia; replicas of Eiffel Tower, Pyramid of Giza and wind turbine of the Netherlands. As you will guess, all acquired when I traveled to Paris, Giza in Egypt and the Netherlands.

Occasionally, I did hold these precious items in my hands to glance closer or play with them as I get deep in thinking about office work or whatever that comes to mind. On some instances, I remember the trips to their originating cities. It refreshes my memory and invigorates me.

Back to my indecisiveness, my final decision boiled down to one thing; use my money for a material thing or spend it on an experience I can reminisce on. I thought about all the not needed things but good to have things I could buy with the money; upgrading my car, getting a cozy apartment, new shoes, a new laptop, a new phone, new wrist watches, sunglasses, etc. The consumer culture thing you know.

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The thing is I can manage without those new things. I learned to resist impulse expenditure about 3 years ago from Brian Tracy. Sometimes, it is more about ranking expected expenditure according to needs. Economists call this scale of preference. The idea that you rank a number of things you want to expend time and money on, in order of desperate need. And when you forego one item for the other, it becomes the opportunity cost of the foregone item. Last year, I had a European trip, culminating to be the opportunity cost to many material possessions I could have. Did you miss the story? Read it here again.

And that’s why I often don’t do well to the expectation of people I meet after returning from a trip, when they ask ‘what did you buy from …(insert name of a foreign city I visited)? I did not purchase something worth their 100% attention or societies 200%. Instead, I invested much of my little cash in paying for an experience such as snorkeling, go-karting, new dishes at restaurants, transportation, desert safari etc. and invest the tiniest fraction on a memorabilia such as the ones quoted above or good to have things.

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Go-karting in Dubai 2014
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My fun friends after the go-kart race in Dubai

I looked up some hard facts online about whether my decision on spending money on experience instead of on things is congruous to many people. Yes it is. Huffington Post reports about a 20 year research carried out by a Cornell University professor Dr. Gilovich on spending money on experiences instead of things  makes you happier.  Here are the three things that helped him arrive at his conclusion.

One. Getting accustomed to new possessions. At the instant you acquire something new, it’s your high point of excitement. However, this thrill fades away as the earth orbits around the sun. True?

Two. Raising the bar always. When you buy a $100 dollar sunglasses today, an expected value of what cost of sunglasses you will buy next will be higher than $100. Once we get something, we want a better one next time. True?

Three. Keeping up with the Joneses. By nature, Dr. Gilovich says, possessions foster comparison. Very true. The instant you see a friend’s car, it’s about comparing which is better. Truth is, there will always be someone with a better car.

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It is called the paradox of possessions says Dr. Gilovich. The wrongful assumption that buying things will make you happy as long as the item exists is wrong. It defies common sense I know at times. Buying something that will be there for a very long time should sustain the happiness you got earlier. Reality is, no. It won’t and will never.

However, foregoing such material expenditure for experiences such as travels, dining out with friends, donating to fundraisers, signing up for gym or yoga classes, trying out new cafes or restaurants should leave a more lasting happiness for you.

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This will give you some well lasting memories. Take your friends with you.
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Or go kite-surfing

Often times, it is not easy to always think of the opportunity cost while about to spend your money, especially when you have enough of it. But it should be. Often when I hear and see people complain of little or no money to spend on experiences such as a vacation, I am bewildered by their considerations as I observe their material possessions that could cover their dreams.

Why have an expensive car, while suffering from ADD (adventure deficit disorder) and not sell it to buy a cheaper car and get cured.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” says Gilovich.

It is easier to bond more with people you hiked Mount Kenya with or traveled to Rome with than with someone who has the same car or phone as you. Even if you did not take the trip together, knowing you all had similar experiences will bring you closer. And that’s more reason to ditch retail therapy (material items) for experience soaked expenditure.

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When I went hiking to Mount Kenya with friends in 2015

What limits you from foregoing spending on things for experiences? What frequently ranks high on scale of preference, purchase of material possessions or expenditure on experiences? Do you always think of the opportunity cost when you come to spending? I would love to hear what is more important to you, things or experiences and why?

Please drop your comments below.

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Backpacking Europe; How I Fulfilled a European College Student Dream

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Anonymous

I love travelling. I don’t mind (much) if it is in style or not, at times. But when I had started preparing my bags to come back to Nigeria, I wanted to see parts of Europe I have never seen before. I drew up an itinerary, from where I reside in East Germany to the south, passing through Munich, then Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, Milan, Monaco, Geneva and back to Germany. I wasn’t sure of this route. I was more motivated to start from Munich because Bayern Munich will be hosting Manchester city at their stadium, the Allianz Arena on July 20th. So I wanted to enjoy the game before going on my journey. Tickets weren’t easy to come by and so I changed my route, from Weimar to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and back to Germany. I wasn’t sure of this route either, but I went for it.

“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.” -Lawrence Durrell

The itinerary looks full. But it’s nothing compared to what many students of colleges and universities in Europe do after graduation. They strap their backpacks and head out to see the rest of the continent and world. I wanted same. I wanted to see everywhere.

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I didn’t know if I was suffering from ecedemomania (a morbid impulse or obsession to travel or wander around or a compulsive wondering away from home) but travelling makes me tick. I get motivated a lot, by the city, the people I meet and see, the experience, the culture shock and a lot other things that goes into your head when you travel.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

I did a bit of research, trying to know interesting places to see in those cities. I penned a few down. I also asked a few friends who lived in those cities what was interesting to see. I was happy I did as one of the places I later visited every single day for the 3 days I was in Amsterdam was recommended through this way.

I got my backpack and stock it up with a few clothing, toiletries, maps and my camera. Starting out was quite easy as I hitched a ride from the east to the west of Germany. More of the hitchhiking story in previous blog post here. Utrecht in the Netherlands was my first stop.

Utrecht seemed a small city, despite its big train station. But that’s how the Netherlands is. It’s a small country. I didn’t sleep in Utrecht, I proceeded to Amsterdam, a city I have always known as the first on the list on weather stations and of course, the home of Ajax Football club. It was amazing to be there. More of detailed story in Amsterdam subsequently. Subscribe to my blog post so you do not miss out.

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I had packed a mattress in my backpack. When the night came, I passed it out in a green Vondel Park. It was surprising. A Dutch couple, who had an apartment in the city joined me. Not me I mean, but in the park. They wanted to enjoy the cool natural breeze of the park. The night was peaceful, I slept with so much ease in my mind. By the time I woke up, the sun was up but the couple was gone.

Three days passed quickly in the Netherlands and I had a road trip to Brussels, the capital of Europe. Another city that has become familiar to me due to weather forecasts (is not that I watch weather forecast only on TV,  just that after the Sports News or some News Segment, the weather story always comes up). I know faintly that the European Union is headquartered there, from watching news. I met so many backpackers there. The night I arrived, Tomorrowland was happening. There were so many youths around. I lodged in to Urban Youth Hostel, about 2km from the city centre. I had made my reservations from Amsterdam already, I was so looking forward to sleeping in a proper bedroom, after camping in Veldermort Park in Amsterdam for two days.

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One of the many river alleys of Amsterdam

When people visit Belgium, they normally run to Bruges, a nearby coastal city. I wanted to see Brussels, as I had only two days for Belgium. I liked the city and remember so much of it, seven months after. Why? Because I walked only in the city for the two days I was there. It was the second time I took a walking tour. Her name was Kristin, a student and a worker. She loves her city she said, and organizes free walking tours for tourists like us. She narrated the story of Leopold the II, who was cunning enough to purchase Angola, with a company.

She also told us interesting stories of the Grand Palace Square, the original place we met. The mythical story of the Manneken Pis and a lot others. She knew so much of her city. I was glad I followed her. She was the one who told us French Fries aren’t from France but from Belgium.

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Panoramic shot of the Grand-Place
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A clothed (not common) Manneken Pis. Legend has it he peed to quench a fire the engulfed then Brussels

More of Brussels…subscribe to my blog here

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The time came to say goodbye to Brussels. Paris was next. Again, I took the bus (yeah I like road trips). We zoomed off to Paris North Bus Station. It was the 6th day of my tour and I was in my third country already. I met with an old friend who I met during my undergraduate days in Zaria. He was working in Paris. So I didn’t need a walking tour from a stranger. He was perfect.

The Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Buisness Centre all graced my presence. They were so many people around. So many tourists. So many shoppers and coffee drinkers.

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An empty street off Champs-Elysees
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Arc de Triomphe: Finish point of Tour de France

By that time, the idea was to proceed to Marseille then sail to Barcelona in Spain. I had seen and experienced so much in the last 8 days. I have walked in many European capitals and took a thousand photos. My brain was saturated with vigor, albeit, at the expense of my legs.

If not the Adidas Neo sneakers I was using, I wouldn’t have come this far with walking. I am quite sure if Suleiman Hashimu (the guy who walked from Lagos to Abuja in celebration of President Buhari’s victory) had them on, he would have continued to Sambisa Forest in Maiduguri.

But then there was a general body fatigue building on because for every single of the last 8 days, I was walking from this location to another. It was exhilarating albeit tiring. I resorted to go back home, to Weimar.

I used a Blabla car (car sharing app) to get a pickup. He was Pakistani if I remember well. He works for a Tabloid in Germany. We drove for 5 hours back to Frankfurt were I shared a car with another German training to be a policeman. When I arrived Weimar, I grinned so much. I was glad I travelled that far, alone. I will do it again, if I get the chance to.

What are your travel dreams? What’s on your bucket list? Tell me. I would love to know. For a detailed exposition of my experiences in the different European cities, subscribe to my blog and get instant notification when they are released.

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