Now that Thanksgiving is past, the holidays are bearing down like a freight train. This is an expensive time of year, and I always wonder how to enjoy the holidays in a way that is both meaningful and affordable.
I like to flip through the catalogs that are arriving by the pound, but I don't really want much that they have to offer. I enjoy the holiday experiences, not the things: family traditions, get-togethers with friends. I was not surprised to run across a WebMD article that backed me up on this.
"In one recent study," wrote WebMD's Katherine Kam, "Cornell University researchers found that purchasing an experience tended to improve well-being more than buying a possession, in part because people are more prone to comparisons and buyer's remorse with material goods" ("Money and happiness: 5 ways your spending style matters"). Memories of positive experiences linger, while things tend to break or wear out over time, wrote Kam.
What else makes people happy? Smaller, more frequent purchases create more happiness than less frequent, expensive purchases, Kam wrote. Buying things for others also makes people happier than buying things for themselves.
So yes, that's me, standing at the skating rink drinking a hot chocolate, or crouched down in a bitter December wind with the kids, looking for hermit crabs and sea anemomes at a local tidepool. I'm just looking for a better balance this holiday season, and hoping to pass it on to the kids: less stuff, more life.