Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

Who Spends Their Money on Life Experiences?

New website replicates recent findings: experiential buyers are happier.

Life experiences become part of who we are. They are woven into our memories, shape our identity, and are generally not replaceable or upgradeable. Experiential buyers also tend to be happier; early analyses of data collected from the website BeyondThePurchase.org confirm recent findings that people who habitually spend their money on experiences tend to be happier than those who regularly purchase material items.

But who are the people who spend their money on life experiences? 

Data collected from the website BeyondThePurchase.org showed that people who scored high on a scale designed to measure experiential consumption tended to score high on measures of extraversion and openness to experience. Extraversion has long been known to correlate with happiness and well-being. Importantly, there were no differences found in experiential consumption in most demographic categories. Males and females were equally likely to purchase experiences, as were liberals and conservatives. People tended to become more experiential consumers as they got older, but there were no differences found for socio-economic status or religion.

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The experiential personality profile makes sense; life experiences are more social and they also contain an element of risk. If you try a new experience that you don't like, you can't return it to the store for a refund. What we are excited about from these results is they show that people from all walks of life are experiential shoppers. There is no difference when examining men and women, rich and poor, or liberals and conservatives on how experiential they are.

How can you find out where you stand in the consumerism game? At BeyondThePurchase.Org we are researching the connection between people's spending habitshappiness, and values. To learn about your spending habits and what influences your buying behavior, first Login or Register with Beyond The Purchase. We encourage you to take the Money Management scale. Then you might try the Consumer Susceptibility to Interpersonal Influence Scale, which measures the extent to which the values of your family and friends influence your own behavior. We think you may learn a lot about how you relate to money, spending, and your social circle. The results might be surprising.

BeyondThePurchase.org is a new, academic website where members of the public can take free surveys to find out what kind of shopper they are and how their spending choices affect their happiness. Visitors to the website will receive free feedback on their spending habits and see how they compare to others who have taken the surveys. BeyondThePurchase.org is an educational and scientific resource provided at no cost to the public: data collected on BeyondThePurchase.org is used solely to further scientific knowledge of consumer behavior and well-being. The early results from BeyondThePurchase.org suggest that the website is capturing the same psychological phenomena as recently published research, and can be used as a scientifically grounded tool for consumers to learn how they can make themselves happier through their spending habits.

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

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