Paying for memories gives value for money

While frittering your money away on endless possessions is never beneficial, investing in something that will create lasting memories holds real value.

Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
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I’m falling in love. It’s an online affair – for now. I’ve been looking for a long-term relationship that’s based on trust, with comfort at its core, and it looks like I’m on to a winner … after I make a few changes.

Before you tell me I’m going about it all wrong, hear me out.

I’ve been through the traditional approach and it doesn’t work. Promises made don’t live up to reality, which can be disappointing, and expensive.

Glory to gory is how I describe my most recent experience.

One minute I’m gazing out at fields, daffodils in full bloom, dancing their rainbow dance – next, corrugated steel cubes surround me – one of which was to be our home for the week. My boys and I went away for the recent school break. This was our very first taste of a static caravan park. A last minute work commitment fell through, which meant that we could go, but everything was booked solid.

We had a great time though – because of what we did, not because of where we were (this place was pretty much just corrugated cubes).

We found fossilised dinosaur footprints – they are huge – and imagined pterodactyls in the sky, swooping down, with us dodging both them and being stomped on by the prehistoric giants. We discovered dinosaur bone on the beach, and many other fossilised prehistoric bits. It was amazing.

Experiences. Not things. That’s the way to go. Possessions buy happiness, but only up to a point. Your experiences are really part of you. Your stuff isn’t.

Which is why I want to do something that might be considered financially irresponsible.

I want a motorhome. A mobile hotel, something that will help us traverse Europe or whatever continent we’re in, without flights, airports or packing. It means spending yes, but it’s cheaper than the alternatives – and more appealing to me than piling a car high and putting up a tent.

A blue bus. It’s a big blue bus that I’m falling in love with. Having spent many an evening researching motorhomes, I have come to these unscientific, conclusions:

• It will cost me a third of the price of a converted bus to hire a motorhome for a couple of summer holiday weeks – prices peaking over school breaks as we know.

This conversion gives us autonomy and comfort. At a fraction of the cost of a “real” motorhome. It even has a squishy sofa. Which allays my apprehension around having an achy bum after weeks of sitting on the unforgiving surface of traditional motorhome seating.

I won’t go into the other specs. Suffice to say that (basic) creature comforts are more catered for. It’s even been taken to ski resorts, says the current owner, without freezing over. Plus it’s unique – my kinda thing.

• The all-important money issue: I am making the case to spend in order to save. If I was to purchase an appropriately priced motor home, use it for the summer, then sell it, I’d still be quids in. If I keep it and use it for other holidays I’m sorted. Yes I know there’s upkeep and insurance-type costs to factor in.

It reminds me of a group of friends who, wanting to explore New Zealand, clubbed together, bought a cheapo second-hand motorhome and sold it at the end of their adventure. You just know that they saved heaps on hotels, not to mention eating out.

I’m not calling for a sudden uptake in motorhomes, I’m sharing how my approach to family holidays is changing.

Out with the multi-stop plane journeys. In with meandering towards a destination – knapsacks tucked away safely and bikes at the ready. Cooking, living and laughing on board our big blue bus. This will be less, much less, expensive than many a holiday so far.

And it fuels the most important ingredient: memories – you just know there’ll be fantastic stories to share. Beats sitting in an airport or on a plane.

Assuming you have your finances in order, and have surplus cash, or holiday and entertainment money saved up, take note: research shows that people who spend a lot on a product valued it less immediately after buying it.

It also shows that we know this, and that memories are more important, but we cave in the face of trends and social pressure. A 20-year study by a Cornell University professor has a simple, powerful conclusion: want happiness? Buy experiences, not things.

Yes I realise I’m looking to buy a possession. But it’s about what the possession does for me. It opens up my world to many more experiences, and will give me a huge happiness return on my investment.

It’s claimed that relationships that start online have a greater chance of succeeding. Here’s to finding out – big blue bus here I come.

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on finding-nima.com.

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