As reported in The Atlantic, buying experiences rather than things leads to greater happiness, and the anticipation of those experiences can make you even happier than the experiences themselves.
If you're looking forward to a winter break in a villa in the Canary Islands, for example, you don't anticipate the appearance of some cockroaches, a mouse, and a homeless guy you find one morning sleeping snuggled up next to the glass door to the living room. (As you may have gathered, I'm not speaking hypothetically; I'm writing this from a villa in Fuerteventura.)
There's a related saying that has always stuck in my mind: "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive."
Experiences also bring more happiness after the fact, the studies show. That's because even if the experience turns out differently than you expected, at the very least it gives you something to talk (or write) about.
EXPERIENCES VS. POSSESSIONS
Looking forward to acquiring material things doesn't bring as much happiness, maybe because with those you pretty much know what you're going to get, and the odds are low that it will be better than you expect, while there's a good chance that it will not be as satisfying as you anticipated.
Furthermore, in thinking about an upcoming experience you can image lots of different positive outcomes, whereas with a material possession the expectations may be more predictable.
Of course this is why advertisers try to convince you that you're buying an experience when you're buying a product: "Use XYZ deodorant and women/men will flock to you, just imagine all the sexual adventures you'll have!" Actually, the only thing that will happen is that your armpits will smell better, but that doesn't get the merchandise flying off the shelves.
The studies also found that while people generally will be interested to hear about your experiences, they're not so keen to hear about the material things you have acquired. Since talking about ourselves and having people listen also brings us happiness, that's another plus.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MORE FONDLY?
This rings true when you think about what people talk about fondly in relating their past.
It's relatively rare that somebody will say, "Boy, I remember that great computer I had...so much internal memory and a retina screen!"
They do say thing like, "I remember that time some friends and I drove across the country..."
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
The moral of the story is to embrace having new experiences. That will give you something to look forward to and something to look back on. And that will make you happy.