Buying Happiness

by Stephen Mills on March 24, 2010

Shopping

Am I claiming you can buy happiness?  Probably not, but if you are going to spend money in pursuit of happiness, there are certain ways of spending that are more effective than others.

There is plenty of evidence from multiple fronts that indicate that indicate more income or money past a certain point that fulfills your basic needs doesn’t make you any happier.  Those are averages and so I suspect within those averages there is wiggle room for creative individuals.  There are also studies that indicate certain experiences might make you happier.

Buy Experiences Not Things

Things (homes, cars, clothes, gadgets) are subject to something called “Hedonic Adaptation”, which simply means you get used to them; they fail to continue to provide the same boost to your happiness that they did when they were new.

On the other hand, the happiness boost from experiences seem to last longer.  It is much easier to continually have new experiences than have new things.  Once you buy that dream house, you are going to be in it far past the period of hedonic adaptation.

So instead of locking yourself into those Golden Handcuffs by purchasing goods, especially expensive ones like homes and cars that require regular payments, try spending your money gaining experiences.  Things like eating out, movies, happy hours, parties, travel, biking, hiking, skydiving, scuba, charity work, and so on.  The list is endless.  Make sure you do some of those things with other people.  Spend some of your money on giving and you will get far more happiness than by buying the latest gadget.

Bottom line, if you are thinking of trying to buy happiness, then buy experiences instead of accumulating expensive toys or clutter.  As you look back on your life, you’ll be glad you did.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven Aitchison March 25, 2010 at 1:00 am

Stephen I love the sound of that – Buy An Experience, could be a good advertising campaign for a credit card 🙂

I used to think that buying a holiday abroad was way too expensive for such a short amount of time. However, now I realise that buying two weeks worth of an experience with my family is worth all the money I have.
.-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..The Biggest Mistake that Self-Employed People Make =-.

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Stephen Mills March 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Hi Steven. Many, many years ago someone at work said that they wished they could afford to take the vacation trips I took. I said they could they just chose to spend their money on something different. This experience thing seems like it is over so fast whereas a car or some other good seems like it lasts a lot longer. We are just fooling ourselves however. Thank you for commenting.

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Cheryl Paris March 25, 2010 at 4:21 am

Hi Stephen,

Vow! We spend our time and money buying the golden handcuffs so correct. Rather we have to get out of our monotonous life and do adventurous things, spend time with the family and learn to give. We cannot do this change all of sudden but small baby steps towards improving what we want and what is materialistic will make a positive difference in our lives. Will make our life worth it.

Bye for now,
Cheryl
.-= Cheryl Paris´s last blog ..How We Grew With An Acorn- N is for… =-.

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Stephen Mills March 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Hi Cheryl. You are correct that we generally cannot make major changes all at once. But little by little those things will add up to something very big. It’s definitely worth it. Thank you for your thoughts.

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Positively Present March 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

I love the idea of buying experiences, not things. I love to shop, but I’m starting to realize more and more that I’d rather buy something I can experience than something that will ultimately just clutter up my home.

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Stephen Mills March 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Dani, being a guy I never liked to shop, but I certainly understand the desire for things. When people get older however they almost never talk about their things. Who reminisces about possessions? There is a reason people remember and talk about people and their experiences – because those are what actually matter to them.

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Grampa Ken - Social Fix March 28, 2010 at 9:43 am

I often see video of children in very poor countries laughing and playing, unconcerned that they should have more to be happy about. They are happy because they are playing, because they have their friends and family, and some food to eat that day. Everyone has the right to be happy, and if they can be in their situation we should be able to very happy. Unfortunately from an early age we are steered in the wrong direction.
.-= Grampa Ken – Social Fix´s last blog ..Consumption and the Environment =-.

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Stephen Mills March 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Hello Grampa Ken. It’s amazing what we can learn from children if we will just look. They don’t need all the formality and structure we force them into either. They fight it and would rather do their own thing. Perhaps that formality and structure makes us adults unhappy too.

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Bradley Gauthier March 28, 2010 at 9:55 am

Hey Stephen,
You are completely correct on this and I am constantly telling my friends & colleagues similar ideas. Too many people feel that a big house and fast car will make them happy. However, they quickly grow bored with them and are locked into huge monthly payments. While on the other hand, they could have simply spent a few bucks here and there to see a comedy show or have a nice meal. In return, gaining huge boosts in positive emotions.

Working your life away to keep up with the Jones’ will not create happiness. But rather happiness is found in the small things in life.

Great post!

Bradley
.-= Bradley Gauthier´s last blog ..Six Steps to Change Your Life for the Better =-.

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Stephen Mills March 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hello Bradley, thank you for stopping by. Yes, people work themselves to death to afford the “big things” and then sacrifice the small things that really matter. They either don’t have the time nor the money to really experience life.

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Mar March 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm

This Article is Amazing !
I totally agree on this one. I love it 🙂

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Stephen Mills March 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hello Mar, thank you so much. I really appreciate it 🙂

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