Buying Happiness

Image courtesy of jasonshen.com
Image courtesy of jasonshen.com

In the wake of the two most consumer-driven days of the year, here at Wishlist we thought we’d take some time out to help you consider the true value of your purchases, and whether or not buying things, is the same thing as buying happiness. So here’s the truth about buying happiness.

We sell experiential gift packages, products that hold no intrinsic value other than the number we collectively agree on as appropriate for sorted experiences. After all, the price of a weekend away with a loved one, or an unlikely adventure, or even a wine tasting with a friend, could never account for the conversations you have, the people you meet, the moments you enjoy and most of all the memories you create. According to research, though, one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to the age-old adage, “can money buy happiness,” is the actual correlation between the price you spend for an object and the amount of happiness you receive. Of course, this is difficult to measure, but studies have suggested that the correlation between actually purchasing a physical object and your happiness is nearly zero, for experiential gifts, however, it’s a different story.

Shocking as it may be, buying things buys us very little in the realm of happiness; it can in fact cause more strife than pleasure. For big purchases, scientists have actually shown that the anticipation of buying the product is more rewarding than actually purchasing and possessing it. Not to mention, that most purchases come with some extra baggage of their own: buyers’ remorse. Meaning, when you spend money on products you will most likely be temporarily tormented by whether or not it was actually a ‘good’ purchase, or even something you needed. So overall science seems to suggest that at its core consumerism does very little for the customers’ happiness, but there is an upside.

According to articles like those posted in The Atlantic and here and here, it is true that purchasing things cannot increase happiness at the core. However, when used correctly, money can. According to The Atlantic, which quoted renowned psychologist Daniel Gilbert, “ [while] we think that experiences can be fun [we also think they…] leave us with nothing to show for them, but that turns out to be a good thing.” Happiness, it seems, comes in part from our relationships and friendships; “and experiences are usually shared—first when they happen and then again and again when we tell our friends.” So not only do we increase our happiness every time we recount our experiences but there is also an inability to compare what we have to others’. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Another upside to purchasing experiences is that waiting for them to arrive causes a gleeful anticipation rather than the nervous anticipation that incurs waiting for a product. Think about it: how do you feel waiting for a package to arrive? Restless? Nervous? Excited? What if that package was half your rent money? Very Nervous? On the opposite side of the spectrum imagine how you feel waiting for a vacation, or a delicious meal at a nice restaurant. It’s a different sensation entirely.

Now, considering many of us took part in either Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, or Cyber Monday, here is a small encouraging fact about buying things. According to the Wall Street Journal, “those who spent money on other people were happier than those who treated themselves.” That also means purchases that help other people, maybe through supporting local businesses or fundraising efforts, can actually make you feel happier. Yesterday, was Giving Back Tuesday. While it is now Wednesday, don’t let that discourage you from giving back. Any day of the year, is the perfect time to offer a helping hand.

For holiday gifts this year, consider buying experiential gifts for your friends and family, or even yourself, and enjoy a happier year. Be sure to look at our gift guide so you can find the perfect, meaningful gifts for your friends and family who mean the world to you. As always stay up to date with all the Wishlist news by following us on all the social media platforms.

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