Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

The Top 5 Reasons Spending Less Will Make You Happier

Being frugal is associated with smarter, healthier, happier spending habits.

In a recent study we conducted in my lab, we investigated how consumers who are able to practice restraint in purchasing are different than those who are loose in their spending habits. The results show that there are distinct differences between tightwads, those who have trouble spending money, and spendthrifts, those who have trouble not spending money. Using the data we collected on BeyondThePurchase.org, we find there are five advantages to being a tightwad.

What is a tightwad?
Tightwads use their money wisely. There are numerous articles in the consumer research that show buying experiences, like going to concerts and dining out, provides consumers with more happiness than buying material items, like jewelry and clothing. Our data shows that tightwads have a tendency to buy more experiences than material items. Also, spendthrifts tend to buy more material items than experiences and therefore do not enjoy the same benefits as more thrifty consumers.

Tightwads practice healthy spending habits. On top of not using their money to effectively increase their happiness, spendthrifts are prone to compulsive buying—maladaptive repetitive buying associated with low self-esteem and depression. Spendthrifts are also more likely to buy without thinking. Tightwads are also more conscientiousness and seem better adapted to avoid these mental health issues.

Tightwads are not easily influenced. Trusted advice is not as valuable as having the ability to make up one's own mind. Tightwads are less susceptible to having their minds made up by others. Spendthrifts are more likely to possess a desire to comply with others’ wishes.

Tightwads have eyes on the prize. Tightwads not only value achievement more than spendthrifts, they are also more open to self-development. This combination makes it more likely for tightwads to find success professionally and perhaps at home. A strong correlation between being a tightwad and positive emotions, specifically joy and contentment, suggests that exercising financial restraint may inspire happiness all on its own.

Tightwads are not what you think. Being a tightwad is depicted as a 16th century character who is an old miserly man with tight purse strings--a wretched old man who never had any fun. However, considering what these results tell us, perhaps you being a tightwad leads to being wise, healthy, happy, independent, and highly-motivated.

At BeyondThePurchase.Org we help people make the connection between their spending habits – how do you spend your money and who do you spend it on – and their happiness. To learn about what might be influencing how you think about and spend your money, Register with Beyond The Purchase, then take a few of our spending habits quizzes:

How happy is your subconscious? Find out by taking our Implicit Happiness quiz.

How materialistic is your subconscious? Find out by taking our Implicit Materilism quiz.

Some people are gadget heads and some are foodies. Which do you spend your money on? Find out by taking our experiential buying quiz.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness. To read more about the connection between money and happiness, go to the Beyond the Purchase blog.

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

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