Updated: Sep 5
Updated post: 4/26/23 - Original post: 8/11/22
Do you remember that amazing road trip you took in college? What about the first time you and your partner had your first impromptu kitchen dance party while you made dinner? How about the wonderful evening you shared just staring up at the stars while you talked and held hands? Yes? Well guess what, there’s a reason for that.
Older generations seemed to think that building the perfect family meant spending insane amounts of money on a big house, nice cars, and pricey toys, but they forget something very important:
Money can’t buy you love.
Human brains are wired to get more joy out of new and novel experiences than new possessions (yes that includes that new grill you’ve been eying), and the best way to create happy memories that stand the test of time is by having as many joyful experiences as possible.
To be specific, research has found that
... spending money on socially shared experiences was valued more than spending money on either experiences enacted alone or material possessions
That principle is why you still remember how fun that road trip was even though you were so broke you could barely afford gas and all had to share one hotel room. It’s why you still smile sometimes when you think about those wonderful evenings when you and your partner danced like idiots and bore your souls to each other under the stars.
You don’t need to spend a ton of money to make lasting memories with the people you love. In fact, here are five ways you can make memories on a budget:
1. Take a Vacation (on the Cheap)
For some reason we’ve all gotten it in our heads that a vacation has to involve first- class tickets to far-flung destinations, expensive hotels, and meals at restaurants that cost as much as your first car. But do you know what the dictionary says about the word “vacation?” I do.
All you need to do to take a vacation is to stop working and do something fun and relaxing for a while. Flying off to France is a vacation, sure, but so is hopping in the car and driving to the nearest national park for the day, or taking a day trip to the city and taking in the sights and going to a museum or two.
2. Check out the Nearest Brewery or Vineyard
One of the best parts of the craft beer craze is that you can’t throw a rock without hitting at least one brewery these days. Most breweries hold tours at least once a day—they love the attention—and typically charge next to nothing for the pleasure. You might not think you’d have a good time touring a brewery, but just about anyone can appreciate the skill, specialized equipment, and surprisingly advanced chemistry that goes into brewing, and the tour guides are usually more than happy to share a few sips of the brewery’s newest beers.
Not into beer? No problem! There are tons of small-batch distilleries and wineries out there, too, so you’re sure to find one that both you and your partner can appreciate. You should probably leave the kids at home, though.
3. Take a Class Together
Ever wanted to learn how to cook? Make pottery? Do yoga? Play the drums? Well now’s your chance. There are hundreds of schools and businesses out there that would love to teach you and your partner how to do something, and none of them are that expensive.
Not only will taking a class as a couple help you and your partner get better at working together and helping each other out, it’ll also give you plenty of opportunities to make fun of them when they inevitably screw something up. And we all know that few things are better for strengthening a relationship than laughing at your partner after they get covered in flour, completely fail at making a pot, fall on their face, or conclusively prove that they have no rhythm at all.
4. See a Life-Changing Show
Yeah, yeah, this was kind of covered already, but this one’s just too good to be part of another example. You probably treasure the memory of the first concert you went to, right? Part of you is still standing there feeling the magic you felt when you saw your favorite band play right before your eyes, right? Wouldn’t it be great if you could share that memory with your significant other?
Tickets for concerts, plays, and musicals have gotten crazy expensive over the years, but that doesn’t mean you have to sell your kidney for a chance to see an amazing concert with your partner.
Look up free concerts near you and grab your friends to go to them! Take advantage of the Ticketmaster filtering option for free concert tickets and plan.
5. Get Some Professional Photos
Let’s be real here, there’s a certain kind of person whose eyes will light up at the thought of having a bunch of pictures taken by a professional photographer...and there’s a 99% chance you’re married to one.
Remember how your mom would always make a big fuss about getting your pictures taken when you were a kid? It was always kind of annoying, sure, but the joy your parents felt at having professional-quality pictures of you made it all worth it. So why not take the reins and do the same thing for the special person in your life?
Most professional photographers charge reasonable rates, and you’ll get a huge return on your investment. A good photographer will have backdrops, proper lighting, an amazing camera, and even costumes for you and your family, and it’ll be hard not to have fun making silly faces and posing like morons while you get your picture taken.
You’re already ahead of the game. You know that buying things isn’t nearly as impactful or memorable as putting your money towards memorable experiences, and now you know you don’t need to spend much to make memories. All you need is a bit of imagination and a whole lot of love.
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Lowery, G. (2010, March 31). Cornell Chronicle. Glee from Buying Objects Wanes, While Joy of Buying Experiences Keeps Growing. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2010/03/study-shows-experiences-are-better-possessions.
Caprariello, P. A., & Reis, H. T. (2013). To do, to have, or to share? Valuing experiences over material possessions depends on the involvement of others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 199–215. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030953