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Memories Appreciate, Stuff Depreciates

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When JD and I had Greg Karp, author of The 1-2-3 Money Plan, on the Personal Finance Hour show a few weeks ago, something that Greg said really resonated with me (and I said so during the show).

I paraphrase: Memories appreciate, while stuff depreciates.

I suppose I intuitively knew this because I’ve always been an “memories” type of person. Stuff is nice, but if I am to splurge, I do it on experiences rather than things. However, until he said it, I never really thought of it that way.

In our minds, we tend to build up the good things and downplay the bad things. Think of the last vacation you had, ours was a fantastic vacation to Europe. I remember all the fun times we had with friends in the pubs of Ireland, England, and Scotland. I remember the great food we ate in Italy and the wonderful views and castles along the Rhine in Germany. I don’t really remember the scramble to catch trains or how we scrambled around Montreux to find a hotel to sleep in. You remember the good things.

As for stuff, I’ve never been a huge fan of stuff because I didn’t like packing it up in boxes whenever I moved. When you think about it, most physical things only depreciate. Your car requires maintenance, fuel, and cleaning. The various chotchkies and trinkets you have around the house requirement cleaning and dusting. I’m not anti-stuff, but given the choice I’ll go with making a new memory over buying something.

What do you think?

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24 Responses to “Memories Appreciate, Stuff Depreciates”

  1. Amanda says:

    This is an idea that I’m really trying to get behind. Over the years I’ve been big on buying souvenirs. First I made the move from buying lots of little things to buying one important thing… and buying things like T-shirts (that I can use) instead of things that sit on a shelf. However, I still have a house full of stuff that I don’t know what to do with and lots of things to dust. One of my big problems happens to be books. Books are heavy when you move and take up space… and though I have parted with a lot of them, there are so many that I can’t seem to find a new home for, or perhaps I’m not convinced that I want to. Buying and having stuff is certainly a vicious cycle that I’ve become trapped in, despite my efforts.

  2. zapeta says:

    I agree…memories are better than stuff because you have to move stuff!

  3. Randy says:

    I appreciate stuff. Memories degrade (as we age), while stuff depreciates (in value). I think tangible vs. intangible is gender related. Jim, I would like to see you tally the results based on gender. Do men typically prefer stuff, where women prefer memories?

  4. CD says:

    Most “stuff” only gives short term gratification and then becomes work. The stuff may be part of a memory, but I’m sure no one needs a shot glass or T shirt to remember their vacation, but in the moment rational thought must go out the window. I have overcome the need for useless stuff. My wife is getting over it as well. Hopefully we can pass this on to our children.

  5. Miranda says:

    I’m definitely experience-oriented rather than stuff oriented. I am willing to take pictures, though! That kind of stuff is worth it to me :)

  6. RJ Weiss says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Stuff has never made me grow as a person. Experiences have.

  7. Marcie says:

    I’m working on not buying as much “stuff”, because experiences are to die for. Right now I’m trying to convince my husband that we need to spend $100 on “trapeze school”. :)

  8. daemondust says:

    But housing prices will keep going up!

    Yes, memories will last a lifetime (unless you get Alzheimers) and positions will depreciate, but they often come with memories of their own.

  9. I agree with this 100%.

    REminds me of this girl who posted a love email on Craigslist saying she only will go out with a guy making $500,000. Several of us in the office qualify, but the classic response was while her beauty she described was incredible, she was a depreciating asset, while the rich bachelors she seeks will continue to make more and more money.

    Ok, this isn’t exactly the right analogy, but you get the idea! :)

  10. Hey Daemondust – Housing prices do indeed always go up, that’s what Zillow told me last week when it said I was $400,000 richer! lol. I wrote a post about it and why Net Worth is an illusion.

    • daemondust says:

      If you poorly patch any defects, paint the walls ugly colors with cheap paint, and put in atrocious furniture you can sell it for twice what you paid too!

  11. Patrick says:

    I have to agree completely. Money only goes so far before you start to feel empty. Memories give me a much greater sense of fulfillment and enjoyment way over what anything money can buy.

  12. Brian says:

    This idea really blew me away when Greg said it as well. I am glad you wrote about it more formally. It has changed my outlook and my spending habits. I may actually be spending a bit more these days, but i am gaining more memories and not more stuff. And i feel like its money well spent!

  13. Damon Day says:

    How true that is. My family and I are currently packing up a huge house full of stuff to put into storage. We are going to travel around the US for 6 months or so. (My boys are not in school yet, so it is now or not for a long time)

    I can’t believe how much stuff we have and we have done 4 garage sales already. I think we will eventually end up moving to Colorado from California, and that is going to be a couple of big trucks.

    Packing all this stuff, most of it I didn’t know I even had, really makes you realize how little we actually need. I just see all this money wasted in stuff that was shoved away somewhere. Now I am going to spend more money to box it up, move it to a different state and then find a place to shove it away.

    I actually still have things in boxes in the garage from our move 5 years ago. Never even opened the box. Unbelievable.

    • Damon Day says:

      Hey what happened to my picture. It used to show up when I commented on this your site Jim. I don’t even know what service I used to upload it. Any ideas?

  14. In the Money says:

    Totally agree. Memories are priceless. Happiness from stuff tends to fade with time.

  15. Jenn says:

    Whenever I consider any purchase large or small, I always see it in terms of lost travel dollars. It makes it much easier to leave that unecessary item in the store. Fabulous outfit vs a hotel night in Venice? Fast food meal vs admission to the Coloseum in Rome? Starbucks coffee vs donkey ride up the cliff in Santorini, Greece? In every case the potential travel experience wins.

    We earn good salaries, but most days live very frugally on about 50% of our take home pay. We pay cash for used cars and drive them until they are towed away. We haven’t had cable in 15 years, and 99% of the time buy an item only to replace something broken or worn out. I’ve never been a recreational shopper, and only go when I need something and then I work from a list. It’s now just the way we live and we forget how much others spend on “stuff” they regard as a normal part of life. In return for skipping the non-essention stuff, we spend the excess on travel and saving for early retirement. In 2008 we took the kids on a spring break Caribbean cruise and then spent the month of August in Italy, Greece & Germany. I can’t tell you how many times I heard some version of “wow that must have cost a fortune, or , I wish we could afford to do that”. It was all I could do not to reply “if you didn’t have 500 channels, enormous TVs, giant car payments, more clothes than you can wear, and eat out 5 nights a week you could have come with us!” Most folks can afford to do anything, just not all at once or not right away!

    For us, doing without a lot of stuff allows us to travel with our children now rather than waiting for retirement and hoping we’re still physically up to it. No one way is right or wrong, we all just need to decide what our priorities are, and then not complain about what we don’t have. For some people the material stuff required to maintain a certain lifestyle is important. For me, physical stuff is the least interesting thing I can think of to spend my money on.

  16. Certain “stuff” means a lot to me — but would mean nothing to others. The outfit my newborn daughter wore home from the hospital. Letters from my mother, who died six years ago. A drawing my great-nephew made. A slumped-glass bowl given to me by a close friend. Etc. etc.
    The rest of it I can live without. Do I have clutter? Yes, but much of it is books and little oddments bought at yard sales. It could all go away and I would live just as long and die just as happily.
    That said, I do love turning the pages of a favorite novel or looking at that glass bowl, which is from Australia. These things INITIATE memories. And I like the way these things enrich my life.
    A friend gave me this hint about “souvenirs”: When you go to another city, state or country don’t buy a big clunky thing. Buy a Christmas ornament or some small local object that can be turned into a Christmas ornament. Every time you decorate your tree you’ll be reminded of England, or Australia, or Schenectady. Of course, this only works if you celebrate Christmas.

  17. This is the truth!

    Pretty much anyone can do the simple test. If you look back over your entire life, and think of all of the best moments that you’ve had, they always revolve around People and Events.

    They never revolve around a material item gained.

  18. Peter says:

    While I agree that memories are more important than material stuff, it is inevitable that I equate some of my valued stuff to fond memories. I have stuff that I could not part with because they remind me of milestones in my life. My first car, for instance, holds a lot of meaning to me because it was the first stuff I bought from my hard-earned money. Though they go hand in hand, i think we have to learn how to strike a balance between cherishing memories and stuff. http://www.mywellofwealth.com/” rel=”nofollow”>My Well Of wealth

  19. Honey says:

    My boyfriend claims that stuff is how he accesses his memories. He still has the free t-shirt they gave him at high school graduation even though it is basically a rag because “it’s a memory.”

    Ugh.

  20. Monevator says:

    Perhaps my problem with paying for experiences is I have a terrible memory!

    I’ve been debating this on my own blog, and from what people are saying they seem to remember their experiences so much better than I do.

    If I could have perfect total recall, I’d go for experiences every time. (Then again I’m not sure I’d ever get out of bed, reliving my student years ;) )

    • Kent says:

      I have a terrible memory also, that’s why I journal the magic moments and then re-read them. A little repetition and you’ll remember them.

  21. Kent says:

    I believe in memories over stuff. Around 2006, I spent several months training and over $10,000 to climb Kilimanjaro. Why? Because my father climbed it in ’62 and he can’t climb anymore. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and I climbed for both of us.

    The memory of summiting continues to take me farther than almost any other “thing” I own. Since that trip, I exercise almost daily, consciously watch what I eat, strengthened my goal setting skills ever more, and donate for scholarships so the children of mountain porters do not have to be guides if they choose not to.

    I didn’t gain as much from the things I bought over the same timeframe. My new car was bought back by the manufacturer as a lemon, I sold my house and home prices have not come back in my area, some of my stocks took a nasty plunge, I had to buy some new shoes for work…the list goes on.

    So far, the magic moments in my life have taken me farther than most things I own.

    P.S. I’m not anti-stuff. I cannot get to work using my memories alone; I drive my car. But my magic moments have appreciated more in my life than most things I own.


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