Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

Preliminary Finding: Stark Contrast in “Thriving” Between Experiential and Material Buyers

Experiential buyers are more likely to thrive than material buyers.

Numerous studies have suggested that experiential purchases result in greater and more long-term happiness than material purchases. But what about the overall well-being of the types of people who typically spend materially or experientially?

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Gallup uses Cantril's Self-Anchoring Scale to gauge the percentage of Americans that are thriving, struggling, or suffering at any given time. Their results from 2011 were recently released and show how thriving scores have changed over the past few years, and also how they compare across different demographic variables (e.g., household income, age, gender, ethnicity, region of the country).

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We ran some preliminary analyses from a U.S. sample of 443 adults who had taken both the Experiential Buying Tendency Scale and the Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale and compared thriving scores for material, experiential, and balanced buyers, controlling for income.

As the results below demonstrate, 67 percent of experiential buyers reported thriving, while only 31.8 percent reported struggling and a tiny percentage (1.1 percent) said they were suffering. These numbers are quite different than both balanced and material buyers. The perecentage of balanced buyers who reported thriving was 58.6 percent while only 52.9 percent of material buyers said they were thriving. 

Experiential buyers are more likely to be thriving.
Experiential buyers are more likely to be thriving.

At BeyondThePurchase.Org we are researching the connection between people's spending habitshappiness, and values. You can help us with this research; first Login or Register with Beyond The Purchase and take the Experiential Buying Tendency Scale and other spending and well-being related measures. We'll continue to explore the mechanism by which purchasing style is linked to well-being, as well as other variables that may play a role in this relationship. Also, we think you may learn a lot about what causes you to part with your hard-earned money.

Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University.

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