Can Money Buy Happiness?

It sure would be nice if along with laundry detergent and toothpaste you could buy a Lifetime Happiness Plan. It would be nice to quantify something so curiously unquantifiable as happiness and it would be even nicer to be able to ensure its continuity throughout your life. Unfortunately, even with envious amounts of wealth at your disposal the truth remains that money cannot buy happiness… for the most part.

Studies have shown that buying things doesn’t necessarily correlate to happiness. When purchasing lavish objects and things, consumers are more likely than not to experience varying degrees of buyer’s remorse, or even worse, anxiety and stress over whether or not they purchased the “best” or “right” thing. After getting past this initial step of the buying process, the consumer then experiences a growing dissatisfaction with the object until eventually they stop using the product all together.

In this sense money cannot buy happiness. In fact, it seems that purchasing objects may cause a degradation of your overall happiness. Still, though, it’s hard to believe that people who are financially well off aren’t more consistently happy than those who are less well off, and to a degree this is true. In a paper written by Dr. Ryan Howell, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, he argues “a person will be happiest when three basic psychological needs are satisfied: autonomy, competence, and relatedness”. In order to feel autonomous a person must feel his or her actions are self-guided, freely chosen and self-motivated. Competence is gained when a person uses their talents and skills to master or learn a new task. Lastly, relatedness is gained when people connect with one another and develop supportive relationships. All three of these psychological needs can be found through experiences.

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On a happy note, though, in a recent study by Cornell University about the Psychology of buying things, it was shown that people who invest in experiences have increased happiness. On top of that, the study managed to show that while satisfaction with material purchases tends to decrease over time, satisfaction with experiential purchases tends to increase. They finalized their report by saying “from many angles, the pursuit of experiences over possessions seems to be the firmer path to happiness”. In both of the studies mentioned above, there is strong evidence in support of spending money on experiences rather than things. While the Cornell study shows that the level of satisfaction depends heavily on what you purchase Dr. Howell, essentially argues that spending money on experiences will ultimately lead you to self-fulfillment and in turn happiness.

It is easy to believe that if you had a few more dollars every month you would be happier. That if you could buy those new leather boots or that really fast car your happiness would increase exponentially.The truth however lies in the fact that wealth in life comes from experiences not things. A room full of treasures will never equal a mind full of memories, and while money may make it possible for you to have a larger variety of experiences it cannot prevent you from making your own. Often times our best experiences lie in our own backyards, in the Colorado mountainsides or the city streets. They are the affordable moments, the spontaneous moments or the new moments that make us truly happy.

Objects and things will rarely give you the satisfaction you seek, but experiences will leave you with increased fulfillment and overall happiness. Invest in moments not things, and you’ll find yourself a happier person in no time. Find your own happiness today. 

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