“Maybe all we can hope to do is end with the right regrets.” — Arthur Miller

Experiences vs. ThingsEvery several months, my partner, Jeanine, pulls out a world map and after unfolding it bemoans all the places she has never been. I try to take the-glass-is-half-full approach and point to the many locations that we have already visited. Compared to our parents’ experience, it reads a bit like, Where in the World is Matt Lauer? My parents have never been out of the country and Jeanine’s mother, who is the same age, hasn’t either.

She always lets out a sigh and says, “So many places to see, so little time.” This is the conversation that typically leads to her planning our next vacation. We like to travel. There are people who like to spend money on things and others who like to spend it on experiences. We definitely fall into the latter category.

Jean Chatzky, editor at large for Money Magazine, agrees with our experiential living philosophy. In her recent article entitled, Shopping for Happiness? Here’s What to Buy, she writes, “The pursuit of money and the pursuit of happiness often get equated, especially in our success-addled culture. But over the past decade or so, science has set us straight on two points: First, once you have escaped poverty, more money won’t buy you more happiness. There’s little difference in the overall happiness of millionaires and the middle class. And second, if you are going to spend your money in search of greater happiness, you’re better off buying experiences rather than things.”

What types of experiences will give you the biggest bang for the buck? Click here for Chatzky’s list.

She suggests that we pay attention to the smaller, day-to-day occurrences. It sounds like the author, Alexandra Stoddard and her 5-percent rule. She believes that most people concentrate their energies on the things that are reserved for special occasions rather than things that we do or use everyday.

“The 5-percent rule translates into a tendency to save up for a few outstanding events each year — for a particular party, anniversary or birthday celebration, a vacation. Such events comprise at the most 5 percent of our living time, and the remaining 95 percent is often merely walked through in wistful anticipation of some later joy.”

We do a bit of this with the annual vacation, however even in our day-to-day life, we buy experiences vs. things. We’ll spend money on a nice piece of fish and an above average bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. That’s a typical Tuesday night for us. We enjoy the experience of cooking together.

Paula has written in the past about spending her “fun money” on the occasional but planned wine splurge. She writes, “We love wine and really enjoy having different producers, countries, grape styles, and price ranges on hand for our wide range of culinary whims.” Paula’s buying experiences!

Rich has written about it too. He cites an article in Mother Jones that calls it the ‘Laura Ingalls Wilder effect’ (of Little House on the Prairie fame). Laura’s story was of “a life rich in family, rich in connection to the natural world, rich in adventure — but materially deprived.” He writes, “Our current pursuit of material well-being is not only failing to make us any happier, but it is trashing the planet and is literally making us crazy.”

Dana Yochim from The Motley Fool once interviewed a researcher from the University of Chicago who concluded, “In the end, happiness is about wanting and managing what you already have.”

Whether it’s traveling to an exotic locale or enjoying some crusty bread and a plate of imported cheese on your back yard patio. It’s not that expensive to participate in life and be happy.