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Consumers feel more immediate happiness after spending money on experiences

Experts say spending on material things may not produce the same feeling

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Photo (c) skynesher - Getty Images
While recent studies have explored how consumers’ buying habits can affect their happiness, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin sought to find what kinds of purchases could bring the most positivity to shoppers’ lives. 

According to researchers, spending money on experiences over material products is more likely to bring consumers immediate happiness after purchase. 

“One issue that hasn’t really been examined much is what happens in the here and now -- are we happier spending our money on an experience or on a material item?” said researcher Amit Kumar. “The basic finding from a lot of experiments is that people derive more happiness from their experiences than from their possessions.” 

Chasing happiness

To better understand how certain purchases can affect consumers on an emotional level, the researchers had over 2,600 adults participate in the study. 

The participants were split up into two groups: those who were instructed to buy material things, like furniture or clothes, and another that was instructed to spend their money on experiences, like concerts or meals at restaurants.

After having the participants report on their happiness throughout the day and after their purchases, the researchers learned that experiential purchases yielded more positive feelings from the participants. The participants buying more material things weren’t as happy following their purchases. 

To confirm these results, the researchers created a second part to their study that gauged participants’ feelings after buying things from one of the two groups. Ultimately, they found the same results: participants were happier after spending their money on experiential purchases rather than on material things. 

“It would be unfair to compare a shirt to a trip, but when we account for price, we still see this result where experiences are associated with more happiness,” said Kumar. “If you want to be happier, it might be wise to shift some of your consumption away from material goods and a bit more towards experiences. That would likely lead to greater well-being.” 

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