Can money buy happiness?

The habitual benefits of being an experiential shopper.

Posted Feb 22, 2012

"Ever since selling linkexchange, I'd committed to living by the philosophy that experiences were much more important to me than material things."

- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.Com

Every day more and more people are trying to understand the relationship between money and happiness. Over the past few years there has been growing consensus that buying life experiences makes people happier than buying possessions. But who spends more of their spare cash on experiences? We know that being an 'experience shopper' is linked to greater happiness and we know that certain people tend to spend more of their disposable income on experiences like concert tickets or a weekend away, rather than hitting the mall for material items.

What are the characteristics of the experiential shopper? We wanted to find out why some people gravitate toward buying experiences. For this study, my colleagues and I surveyed nearly 10,000 people about their shopping habits, personality traits, values, and life satisfaction.

People who spend money on experiential purchases say they "like to act on a whim," "get caught up in the excitement when others are celebrating," and appear to be more emotionally affected by events. They score high on the "extravert" and "openness to new experience" facets of the Big Five. This personality profile makes sense since life experiences are inherently more social than material items, and experiences 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. Finally, as we expected, these habitual "experiential shoppers" reaped long-term benefits from their spending: they report greater life satisfaction.

Life experiences become part of who we are. They are woven into our memories, shape our identity, and are generally not replaceable or upgradeable. It comes as little surprise, then, that past work has shown that experiential purchases increase feelings of happiness. Our latest work shows that some people have preferences for experiential purchases and these individuals who are more experiential are happier, likely in part, because of how they spend their discretionary income.

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:

Can money buy happiness? Take our experiential buying survey and on your feedback page you will learn how to spend your money to be happier.

How do I find happiness in life? Take our happiness quiz and find out your happiness score.

Is shopping an addiction? Take the compulsive buying scale and learn about your spending habits. We think you may learn a lot about what causes you to part with your hard-earned money.

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.

You can also learn how well do you manage money by taking our Money Management quiz and if you focus more on the past, present, or future when you take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness.

Ryan T. Howell, Paulina Pchelin, Ravi Iyer. The preference for experiences over possessions: Measurement and construct validation of the Experiential Buying Tendency ScaleThe Journal of Positive Psychology, 2012; 7 (1): 57 DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2011.626791

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