A study also found that people are more likely to mention experiences they bought vs. With a little change in perspective, though, we can extract more happiness from our possessions by focusing on the experiences they facilitate. So the next time you buy a new flatscreen, think of it not as a fancy piece of technology but as a prop for cosy evenings with your spouse, and you might enjoy it all the more.
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The story emerging from the research is that experiences become part of our identity, which makes them feel valuable in their own right. If you want to bond with other people, you could buy experiences to have with them—or you could spend money on them directly. In the end, contrary to expectations, participants reported being happier after treating others than treating themselves. The same was true of employees who spent more of their bonuses on donations and gifts, rather than personal expenses and treats.
And this effect may not be restricted to rich, white Westerners. Those who made the generous decision reported greater positive emotion at the end of the experiment, in both countries.
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So did participants in India who simply remembered purchases made for others, compared to remembering purchases for themselves or not recalling anything in particular. In the end, the happiest participants were the last group: Does it matter whom we spend money on? Preliminary research suggests that it might. In the context of evolution, the researchers explain, this makes sense: Early humans who enjoyed helping family members were more likely to see their DNA survive.
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The research about spending on others is particularly relevant when we consider donating to charity. Simon Fraser University assistant professor Lara Aknin , who was involved in both of these studies, applies this research to her own life by treating friends and family to small gifts, and trying to make donations that have a big impact. The upshot of her research is that if giving leaves you feeling detached or drained, there may be smarter ways to allocate your dollars so everyone can benefit. As you might have noticed, almost all of this research asks people to recall spending from the past, or contemplate imaginary choices.
Sure, that may be true for other people, but not for me , you might think—and in some cases, you just might be right. Once general trends are identified, the researchers of a study explain, the science of happy spending will have to start accounting for individual needs and preferences. For example, demographics and personality may influence how spending affects our happiness.
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Several studies found some evidence that the happiness advantage of experiential purchases over material ones is even stronger for women than it is for men; in that pioneering study , it was also stronger for young people, highly educated people, and city dwellers. In contrast, people who behave more materialistically—tending to accumulate possessions rather than experiences—seem to derive equal happiness from both types of purchases, a study found.
Future research will have to investigate whether all these findings are merely blips, or evidence of real and robust differences. Purchases were grouped into 59 categories, from gardening to coffee shops, accounting to dentists, which each got a Big Five personality score. Spending on charities might reflect conscientiousness and agreeableness, for example, while spending on tourism might reflect openness to experience and extraversion.
Participants with a better match between their personality and the personality of their purchases reported more satisfaction with life. In a follow-up study, the researchers contrasted two stereotypically opposite purchases: Learn how to budget and create a spending plan.
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Budgeting is simply balancing your expenses with your income. If they don't balance and you spend more than you make, you will have a problem. Many people don't realize that they spend more than they earn and slowly sink deeper into debt every year. Since budgeting allows you to create a spending plan for your money, it ensures that you will always have enough money for the things you need and the things that are important to you.