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The secret to holiday happiness is…

November 24, 2017

Buy less stuff - Make more memories.


Are you making a list and checking it twice? I am too… but this year it is a list of memory-making activities and not a list of gifts to purchase, wrap, and pay for in January.


This is the second Christmas season that our family has gone “stuff-less.” The first time was back in 2010 – before grandchildren – when we took all our kids and their spouses to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Each day was a different couple’s responsibility to plan and pay for the food and activities. We went bowling, we went hiking, we went to the movies, we took a road trip to see the lights at the Biltmore Estate. We had an amazing time. Our children ask us every year when we can do it again.


This year we are staying home and having 22+ extended family members come visit. We can host quite a few in our house, but we’re renting an Airbnb nearby to fit everyone comfortably. With so many people, it seemed like another good year to go “stuff-less.”


So this year’s list is a list of “what shall we all do together”? Games, movies, walks, trips to see the lights at the zoo, the children’s museum, indoor play spaces with the little ones. Lists of special meals to fix and enjoy together. Money that would have been spent on stuff will be spent making memories.


Research (Pchelin and Howell, 2014) indicates that money spent on stuff leads to short-term happiness, whereas money spent on experiences leads to longer-term happiness and a greater sense of well-being. Additionally, experiences are considered a better value in the long run than possessions, even though prior to their purchase people consider material goods of greater economic value.


I am certain the money we will spend on our “Memory-Making List” will be money well spent. Stuff wears out but memories improve with time. What memories do you plan to make this holiday season?


“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment
until it becomes a memory.”

Theodor Seuss Geisel


Paulina Pchelin & Ryan T. Howell (2014) The hidden cost of value-seeking: People do not accurately forecast the economic benefits of experiential purchases, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9:4, 322-334, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2014.898316

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