Teaching My Son To Value Experiences Over Stuff

I’m a spender and always have been. I remember as a child hanging out with my best friend and doing chores for money in the summer. Immediately following getting paid, I would start planning out what I was going to buy with it. My friend on the other hand would put her money in her piggy bank to save. I’m sure most kids were like me, but my spending habits continued in to my adulthood.

My dad passed away unexpectedly this past year and it turned my world upside down. It had me questioning everything, and a week later I stumbled upon the documentary, MINIMALISM, on Netflix. It came at the perfect time. It focused on a life lived with intention, focusing our time and efforts on things that added value to our life not just stuff.


I immediately decided I wanted to challenge myself in the new year. I decided to not purchase any clothing for myself for 6 months to see the degree of strong hold clothing had on me. I also made a mind shift to focus on experiences rather than purchasing things that don’t add value. My husband was on board, but the challenge was my 4-year-old. How could I change his behavior and thinking? He basically got a new toy (small but still) every time we would go grocery shopping or run an errand to Target. He expected it.

As I purged my house of things our family no longer needed I began to explain to my son why we would be buying less stuff. I explained that I wanted our family to focus on activities and experiences together rather than buying stuff, so instead of going to Target and shopping we would go to an indoor play park for a few hours or go to the park. I explained we don’t need lots of toys to be happy. He nodded his head and didn’t ask any questions. One night we were out running errands, and he wanted a toy. I replied,” How about instead of getting that toy, you and I go on a dinner date together?” He loved the idea and I let him pick the restaurant. That was the best Olive Garden date I’ve ever had ; ).Advertisement
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Now when we are loading up in the car for an errand, my son will say “We are not getting a toy when we’re there. Right?” To which I reply, Yep you’re right. Instead of complaining like in the past, he smiles and moves on to the next thought. I can see the transformation in his mind, and his expectation has faded (not completely…c’mon he’s 4).

Whether you choose to call it minimalism, intentionalism or whatever, the concept is basic. Life is not about STUFF it’s about PEOPLE. I want to live life with my favorite people experiencing new adventures together that build memories we will never forget. Most possessions don’t hold much meaning, and the satisfaction they bring us is minuscule compared to the joy and fulfillment we get from sharing in an adventure, moment, vacation, etc. Our focus as a family is quality time with each other and friends, and if we do buy something we want it to add value to our lives.

“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.” – The Minimalists


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