Expenses That Increase Happiness

by RJ

in Psychology

One of the best days of the summer for me so far, was my dad’s birthday. As a family, we went up to Lake Geneva, a lake a little over an hour away from Chicago. We rented a boat, went tubing, went swimming, went out to lunch & ice cream, and finished the day, riding Go Carts. As I remember, the day couldn’t have gone better.

If I think really hard about what happened that day, it wasn’t perfect. My elbows were cut up from tubing. (I was dumb enough to go tubing with my future brother-in-law with my dad driving the boat. Not a smart move.) My neck was sore from the boat hitting waves and coming crashing down. I was lazy and didn’t apply sun block properly and got burnt. Even worse, I got the slow Go Cart and couldn’t crash into anyone.

Even with all the above happening, I still remember it as a great day. Why? Things clicked when I was reading a NY Times article recently about spending and happiness. The article goes on to say:

One reason that paying for experiences gives us longer-lasting happiness is that we can reminisce about them, researchers say. That’s true for even the most middling of experiences. That trip to Rome during which you waited in endless lines, broke your camera and argued with your spouse will typically be airbrushed with “rosy recollection,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside.

Professor Lyubomirsky has a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct research on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness. “Trips aren’t all perfect,” she notes, “but we remember them as perfect.”

Happiness and Consumption

My wife and I, have eight weddings coming up in the next 12 months. All of the weddings are either family or very close friends.

Since we know that there are many expenses associated with weddings, we started to save now for them. Between gifts, traveling, tuxes, bridesmaid dresses, hotel rooms, bachelor parties, etc… we estimated around $500 a wedding or $4,000 in total.

While reviewing our expenses, we saw there there was no way we could come up with $4,000 over the next year and still hit our other goals. So we deiced that we would forgo buying a car. It was not easy to make at the time, but it turns out, I couldn’t be happier with our decision. Our friends and family were so generous when were married, I couldn’t imagine missing a friends bachelor party or complaining about the cost of renting a tux.

Moving On

Spend less on stuff and more on experiences with people you love. If I can sum up everything I know about spending and happiness in one sentence, that would be it.

If you’re smart enough to track your expenses, look back and take a look at what you spent on experiences and what you spent on stuff. What did you get more value out of?


Photo by: Rizkapb

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{ 1 comment }

John HunterNo Gravatar August 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

This concept has clicked with me too. And at least for me it holds true. I really don’t buy much stuff at all. I must also say I often don’t buy experiences but pay to for example go see great National Parks.

I also have “bought my time” by going part time at work in the past. And I am planning on taking a “sabbatical” (that I fund).

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