On Spending Money On Experiences Rather Than Stuff

Lately, I have seen on Facebook all sorts of articles, quotes and scientific evidence to prove that people who spend money on travel live happier than the ones who spend money on material things. It seems to be all over Social Media these days.  Perhaps it always shows on my feed because of the obscure Facebook algorithm which tends to only feed you the very targeted content you want to see…

Anyhow, I can say that I obviously agree with that concept. However, I also think that, over and above “how” we spend the disposable money we make, there is an important nuance to be made on how we “earn” the money to spend on travel and experiences and how we decide to spend it in the everyday life as well.

To me, it seems like living a happy, balanced life is the result of a series of choices and decisions, as well as a certain level random events and factors out of our control of course. The choices and decisions on how we make a living and how we shape our lifestyle day in and day out matter a lot and shouldn’t be made lightly.

It goes without saying that if you work a highly stressful job that you dislike and put in crazy overtime, then have to commute an hour each way every day, chances are you’re not living a very happy life even if, when you do get some time off, you spend your money traveling. You get where I am getting at, right?

Traveling brings happiness. Experiences bring happiness, whether they are in the form of sports, arts, craft, music, volunteering for a noble cause, cooking, learning about topics of interest, or simply spending time with friends and family. Work can also even be a source of happiness, for the fulfillment, challenge and human connections it brings.

Each lifestyle decision impacts our ability to spend more time (and disposable income) doing things that bring us joy.

For our family, in order to be able to spend a large amount of time and money doing what we love such as climbing, skiing, traveling, etc., the lifestyle decisions we make translate in all the different spheres of our lives.

 

  • We purposefully decide to work less.

My husband works seasonal jobs in order to get a few months off each year. I work four days a week.

We calculated that we work an annual average of 23 hours per week, which is less than one day per week. 1/7 of our time in total. This allows plenty of time to take care of chores and plenty of time to spend together as a family, as a couple and on our own as I described in this previous post. We don’t make huge incomes; we are pretty aligned with the median income for two parents Canadian families. Having plenty of disposable time on our side is our priority #1.

I must also say that we also enjoy the work we do, for the most part. We certainly don’t dread going to work each day and both are lucky enough to work in very friendly environments. I think this is quite significant because although only 1/7 of our overall time is spent working, it’s a relatively large part of our “awake” time.

 

  • We don’t drive fancy new vehicles.

Our car is 9 years old and our truck: 21! They are long paid off and the truck is really only used on occasions, to go sled-skiing or on camping trips, and on the occasional drive to town. The rural character of the Kootenays makes it challenging to only have one vehicle, but we could only have one if we really wanted to.

The vehicles we drive surely are not sexy, but they are simple, reliable and sturdy.

 

tailgate
Tailgate picnics taste just as good in an rusted old truck
  • We live close to where we work and recreate.

My husband walks to work at least 6 months a year and my work and daycare are 5 km from home.

From where we live, we can access hundreds of kilometres of trail for hiking, biking and xc skiing right in our backyard, ski right from our door step. We also have access to six climbing crags and a sweet climbing gym, Spirit Rock, within less than 45 minutes of driving. The Purcells and South Rockies are only a short drive and snowmobile ride away and offer countless options for backcountry skiing.

We even have an airport 25 minutes from home!

This is what my bike commute route looks like
  • We live small.

We live in a 2-bedroom condo of a mere 1,000 square feet. This is 1,100 square feet smaller than the average Canadian home*. Our condo doesn’t have a garage nor any large storage.

Everything we own fits into our living space (and on our deck). Our mortgage is small. The maintenance costs are reduced because we live in a strata and therefore we share them with other owners. Our maintenance duties are also reduced to the bare minimum, which leaves us free to lock our door and head out for as long as we want.

I wouldn’t say that there aren’t times where we miss having a yard, a carport or a heated garage to store our toys because we do. But overall, this living situation works for us and allows us to spend money and time on things that matter more.

 

  • We don’t wear fancy clothes.

We don’t wear rags either. We are not overly trendy or fashionable, we are not complete hippies either. We wear functional, quality clothes that last a few years and we own them in small quantity. Condo living forces us to keep things pretty slim and tidy as we only have 2 closets and 2 dressers.

The same rule applies to outdoor clothing. We have some key quality pieces that serve different purposes. We don’t own different colour ski pants for each day of the week. My daughter, just like us, only wears a few of her favourite pieces each season. We buy clothes on sale, online or locally and occasionally from outlets. For my kid, we rely on hand-me-downs and consignment store and presents from the grandparents.

 

  • We only own the gear we use and we use all the gear we own.

Here again, although we like to have the proper gear and mostly like it new and shiny, space is limiting us in what we can possess. We have a small but well-organized gear closet that sometimes is the tidiest space in our home (!).

We buy most of our gear from my husband’s pro-deals as he works in the ski and outdoor industry, or from outlets and sometimes second hand. The MEC Online Gear Swap is a gold mine for brand new gear that’s never been used. Some people buy the top of the line and never use it as they don’t have the time nor the energy…

We sell our gear online too before it looses all the value and renew it periodically. We trade and borrow some items that we don’t use enough to justify buying such as a canoe for a single annual trip, or xc ski gear for my husband who nordic skis twice a year. We don’t accumulate gear and discard anything that’s beyond use as we just don’t have space to store it “just in case”.

I must say however that sometimes we indulge and we feel okay about it because spending money on gear brings us joy and we know we make good use of it. It doesn’t just sits on a shelve and collects dust.

 

ski
The experience is free. How much you spend on gear is up to you.
  • We cook, bake, garden, and freeze.

We mostly eat in, unless we are traveling because we love to discover other cultures through food and culinary customs. We cook most of the meals we eat and prepare freezers meals ahead of time to avoid the “take out” temptation. We bring our lunches every day at work and daycare and when we travel too as there is nothing more enjoyable than picnics.

We are also very lucky that friends have offered to grow vegetables in their garden. We can then enjoy the fresh goodness of summer through crunchy organic greens and delectable berries and veggies. It’s also a nice way to socialize, teach our daughter where her food comes from and let her get her hands dirty. It’s also a really nice way to get the benefits of a backyard without owning one.

Lastly, we ski, climb, run, bike, paddle, camp, travel abroad, go on weekend getaways, fly to visit family, go on road trips and rarely think twice when it comes to planning a trip because we feel we have been diligently saving our money and organizing our time to do so.

We feel very good about spending money on these experiences that are meaningful to our family. That doesn’t mean that all our good principles go out the window when we are traveling. We don’t stay in 5-star hotels, rent fancier cars then we own or go on luxurious excursions…

We travel the way we live, make mindful decisions, just like in our everyday life and that feels alright!

What are your tips to afford the time and money to travel or do what you really love?

*http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canadians-have-the-third-largest-homes-but-they-may-downsize-to-deal-with-affordability-report

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