My 22-month-old son, Charlie, has more than 50 tiny little cars that seem to be in every corner of my house. They are on the floor at night, behind the sofa, in his car bed or in his car box.
The cars give him a lot of happiness, but it’s fleeting. A new silver Porche may only give five minutes worth of wow factor and then he’s onto the next thing. The Porche is then lumped on his play car-park with the rest of them. Then, tomorrow, he will want a “new car”.
I love making my son happy, but I want it to be more meaningful.
Psychologists suggest that “experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having)”.
Thomas Gilovich has spent over a decade studying why spending money on doing things rather than buying stuff is more rewarding. One of his theories is that it starts before the purchase.
“Waiting for experiences tends to be more positive than waiting for possessions,” his study suggests. Waiting for an experience was “more pleasurable and exciting” than waiting to receive a material thing, according to Gilovich, Amit Kumar and Matthew A. Killingsworth.
I wanted to try out the theory. I decided it was a no “new car” day and booked my son into a music class via a website that offers a variety of experiences for children.
My Best Gift founder and CEO, Sara Eastwood, set up the business just over a year ago, when she reached her limit of receiving toys for two young daughters, Mila and Sophie. In an effort to create an alternative for parents, her website offers gifting experiences for babies to teenagers.
Sara and her daughter Mila try aerial silks. Image supplied.
"I would much rather my kids see more, and do more, and try more things than have another Elsa doll," says Mrs Eastwood.
The Sydney mother's business idea was born because she wanted her girls to have rich experiences, rather than more things.
"I really believe that experiences make you happier. They create memories and become part of who you are. Things quickly lose their shine and those new shiny toys all of sudden become another toy at the bottom of the toy box," she said.
That adaptation to the new is "one of the enemies of happiness", according to Gilovich.