By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogWhile I have attended the survey press conference in years past, I didn’t make it this year. My newfound addiction to Mad Men is keeping me up late at night, making it difficult to make it to early-morning appointments.

But, I did nab some time on the phone with YouGov managing partner Cara David on Wednesday afternoon to discuss one of the more interesting points in the survey: Consumers continue to be more interested in spending their money on experiences than on things.

A MasterCard executive made this same point during her presentation at the Global Retailing Conference this week in Tucson. (As a side note, I know that there is a disparity between the data from the U.S. Commerce Department on jewelry sales that we reported on earlier this week and that which MasterCard presented at the Tucson conference. I am looking into this for next week.)

The Time Inc./YouGov survey, which polls affluent consumers about their spending plans for the year and then compares it what was spent last year, indicates that spending on travel will increase more than any other category in 2015. Spending on dining out/out-of-home entertainment also is expected to rise.

The data from MasterCard showed a similar pattern: people are spending more on travel (MasterCard tracks airline tickets specifically) and dining out at restaurants.

“People,” David observed, “are putting their money, first and foremost, in experiences: going places with their families, connecting with people, and that’s tough to compete with.”

This also means that they are spending less money acquiring things, objects, more “stuff” to lay around the house, a trend with which I can identify completely.

I’ve long been fascinated by the entire minimalist movement, particularly those people who limit their personal possessions to 100 objects. I’ve contemplated adopting this lifestyle a few times over the years. I just don’t think, at the end of the day, that I could do it.

But I do like to keep my possessions at a minimum, partly because of the size of my apartment but also because I just don’t want to feel overrun by my “things.”

Like many of those surveyed, I’d rather spend my extra money on going out to dinner with friends, taking trips, or seeing movies or plays. My New Year’s resolution this year, in fact, was to adopt an internal accounting method for keeping my personal inventory low: Anytime I buy something (outside of food and toiletries), I have to get rid of at least one thing I already own.

So, where does the current propensity for picking experiences over objects leave jewelry? I would say not in as bad of a position as other “things.”

Jewelry, after all, has both sentimental and intrinsic value. It possesses the elements that David says people are looking for when they purchase non-essentials these days: jewelry conjures up memories, has a greater meaning and, when done right, it is extraordinary and many pieces, particularly nowadays, are one-of-a-kind.

It is the only “thing” for which I am willing to break my 2015 resolution.

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