Science: Spending Money on Experiences, Not Things, Will Make You Happier

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Most individuals assume when spending money it is more logical to purchase an object versus a one-time experience. The reasoning behind that theory: the object is likely to last longer than the one-time experience. However, according to new research, that theory has been disproven.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, discovered human beings derive happiness from gaining experiences versus acquiring material goods.

Gilovich and co-authors Amit Kumar, a doctoral student who studies psychology at Cornell University, and Matthew Killingsworth of University of California, San Francisco, decided to delve deeper into this study to examine whether or not the enjoyment an individual receives from the anticipation is contingent on what the individual is purchasing.

It was found when an individual is thinking about his or her upcoming purchase on say an event, such as a concert or vacation, the individual experience higher levels of happiness than when an individual anticipates splurging on materialistic things.

During one of the four studies, researchers conducted an analysis of newspaper accounts of a large number of people waiting in life. It was discovered when individuals are waiting in line to make an experiential purchase, they felt higher levels of satisfaction and were better behaved than the individuals who were just waiting to make a purchase on material goods.

In a statement made in the Cornell Chronicle Kumar said, “You sometimes hear stories about people rioting, smashing windows, pepper-spraying one another, or otherwise treating others badly when they have to wait. Our work shows that this kind of behavior is much more likely in instances where people are waiting to acquire a possession than when they’re waiting for tickets to a performance or to taste the offerings at their city’s newest food truck.”

While there are several factors that may explain these findings, Gilovich and his team believes waiting in line to experience an event may minimize competition versus waiting in line for the latest designer handbag, shoes, etch.

“Our research is also important to society because it suggests that overall well-being can be advanced by providing an infrastructure that affords experiences – such as parks, trails, beaches – as much as it does material consumption,” Gilovich said in the Cornell Chronicle.

When deciding on whether you should buy the latest luxury bag or plan a luxury experience, this study suggests you will have higher levels of happiness with your luxury experience so opt for an uber-lux vacation, art gallery exhibit, or any other one-time event.

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