Things to Experience

Kenyon Sayler

BEHAVIORAL ECONOMISTS tell us that we’ll get more satisfaction if we spend our dollars on experiences rather than on purchasing possessions. But what if the purchase allows us to have an experience? Buying a bike, for instance, allows me to take a ride with my sons.

That raises the question: How much do we need to spend on equipment to get the maximum benefit from an experience? I got a glimpse of the answer to that question several years ago as I was walking out of the office on a Friday.

The company’s lab director was leaving a little early, as was I. We talked a bit about our weekend plans. He and his wife were heading to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters for a weekend of canoeing. I was taking my sons and a group of Boy Scouts canoeing in a similar area.

It struck me that the lab director was transporting his Kevlar canoe using his new Lexus, while I was taking a factory seconds rotomolded canoe on top of my 10-year-old Chevy. But we would both be sleeping under the exact same summer sky. We would each hear the laugh of loons on the lake in the morning. We would each enjoy the company of our companions.

To have an experience, there’s some sum of money that needs to be spent on things. But once the basics are covered, there’s sharply diminishing returns on the additional dollars spent.

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