A new study by researchers at the San Francisco State University has found that spending money on experiences rather than material objects will increase people’s happiness. So if you’re wondering what to spend your hard-earned cash on, the answer may well be an unforgettable experience.
The researchers at San Francisco State University found that whilst most people know that experiences will make them happier, they still choose to spend their cash on material objects as people believe these are of greater value.
Ryan Howell, associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University said in a statement that “We naturally associate economic value with stuff. I bought this car, it’s worth $8,000. We have a hard time estimating the economic value we would place on our memories.”
Experiences vs material object
One of the experiments to prove this was published recently in the Journal of Positive Psychology in which researchers surveyed a number participants throughout the purchasing stage. Prior to purchasing an item, the participants all noted that a life experience would make them more happy, but that purchasing a material object instead would make more sense financially. However, following the purchase, researchers found that the participant’s opinions changed dramatically. After purchasing material objects participants said that their happiness would have been greater with an experience and that an experience was actually better value than a material item.
Another experiment in the study asked participants to purchase something based purely on either happiness or value. Those participants asked to focus on happiness tended to pick experiences whereas the participants focused on value tended to choose material items.
“These results suggest that when people are considering material or experiential purchases they are balancing happiness and monetary concerns,” the researchers concluded in the study.
Even a bad experience becomes a good story
The collection of studies by the university has also revealed that even bad experiences often make people happier in the long run. Everyone knows the feeling of being in horrible situation that one laughs at later. Therefore, even if your car breaks down or you get lost in the woods, don’t despair, as the experience may lead to a more happy life.
Because previous research suggests that money can buy happiness (at least to some extent), many people believe that having the latest TV or car will increase our happiness over a long period of time because material objects last longer than experiences.
However, the latest findings by the university suggest the opposite.
The research indicates that we as a population adapt to our new items very quickly and after a very short time begin to take them for granted.
Therefore, spending your money on experiences, travel, learning a new language etc. offers a much more rewarding feeling, making us happier inside.
According to the research team in a recent press statement, the broader implications of the study indicate that "well-being can be advanced by providing infrastructure that affords experiences, such as parks, trails, and beaches, as much as it does material consumption."