Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

Are You a Happy Shopper?

Who spends more of their spare cash on experiences?

Psychologists have found that buying life experiences makes people happier than buying possessions, but who spends more of their spare cash on experiences? We now know that extraverts and people who are open to new experiences tend to spend more of their disposable income on experiences, such as concert tickets or a weekend away, rather than hitting the mall for material items.

Money and Happiness
In a recent study, we examined the responses of people who completed online questionnaires about their shopping habits, personality traits, values and life satisfaction. These habitual “experiential shoppers” reap long-term benefits from their spending: They reported greater happiness.

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While these data show that being an ‘experience shopper’ is linked to greater happiness, we wanted to find out why some people gravitate toward buying experiences.

Participants’ personality was measured using the “Big Five” personality traits model, a scale psychologists use to describe how extraverted, neurotic, open, conscientious and agreeable a person is. People who spent most of their disposable income on experiences scored highly on the “extravert” and “openness to new experience” scales.

This personality profile makes sense since life experiences are inherently 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.

Also, we believe that it could be easier to change your spending habits than your personality traits. Even for people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases, these results suggest that getting more of a balance between traditional purchases and those that provide you with an experience could lead to greater life satisfaction and happiness.

At BeyondThePurchase.Org we help people understand the relationship between money and happiness. To better understand the benefits of specific consumer choices, we continue to investigate the relationships between consumer preferences, psychological needs, happiness, and values at our website by allowing people to take tests on personality. 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 personality quizzes:

Which spending decisions will make you happiest? Take our Spending Choices and Happiness survey and on your feedback page you will learn how to spend your money to be happier.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness. Responses to these surveys will also help researchers further understand the connection between money and happiness.

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

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