investing in experiences

piggy bank

I love this post by Design Sponge’s Amy Azzarito, about rechanneling her money from “things” into “experiences.” She’s committed to that practice in theory, but as she points out, “it’s easier to say that you’re going to stop buying things (and invest in experiences instead) than it is to do it.” Especially in New York City, I would add.

It’s really hard to keep from buying stuff I can technically afford – whether a pair of shoes I really want or the new mattress I actually really need – when the alternatives seem to be spending the money on some other thing instead, using it for a fairly small beans experience, or putting it away towards a far-into-the-future goal that is too lofty and nebulous to feel real (i.e. saving enough to ever retire).

It became easier for Amy when she earmarked that money towards a specific, medium-term “experience” goal instead – in her case (and mine), travel:

One of the best things that helped me through my detox diet was deciding what my next travel experience (my ultimate goal) was going to be. Looking at travel books (which I checked out from the library) and pricing out trip options seriously helped curb spending. Those Vans shoes basically equaled a night in a hotel and once I started looking at things through my travel goggles, I was much less likely to even consider spending the money on them.

“Travel goggles” is an apt term for what happens when you commit to a plan that requires lots of vision and tenacity and temptation resistance but that makes you super excited and motivated, too. Ever since I decided to do a self-styled study abroad sabbatical – and priced out how much it will cost – I’ve found it easier to pass up non-essential purchases. I know that to make my trip a reality I’ll have to aggressively reroute all my disposable income – for two years – towards that dream. God knows I won’t be able to stay the course for a third year, so it’s really important that I don’t cheat on my saving commitment.

That means I’ll be whipping out my travel goggles often – whenever I am staring down a pair of miraculously comfortable heels, or burning soup in my paltry excuse for a saucepan, or feeling sad about the state of my apartment’s furnishings. Another night (or 700) on my glorified futon now means another night in West Africa later.

P.S. Here’s another one of Amy’s posts – about facing the fear of learning a second language – that seemed written just for me, apart from the fact that I’m sure a million people can relate to it.

(Photo: Philip Brewer)

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