Choosing between a new sweater and a pair of concert tickets? Buy the tickets, suggests a study on whether our spending habits are likely to make us happy.
Philosophers since Aristotle have claimed that experiences fulfill us more than material goods. To test this claim, a pair of psychology professors examined discretionary spending on material purchases (such as jewelry or clothing) and experiential ones (such as vacations or tickets to a concert). In a nationwide phone survey of 1,279 adults, respondents were much more likely to claim that a prior experiential purchase made them happier than a material one—57 percent versus 34 percent—even after accounting for differences in price.
Of course, some items—such as books or sports gear—are both material and experiential. And one person's splurge may be another's must-have. So the researchers simply asked respondents to think of purchases they'd made "with the intention of advancing their own happiness."