Money and Happiness – Revisited

The following blog was written by renowned Positive Psychology researcher and author, Robert Biswas-Diener.  Since I am a person who enjoys my material purchases, I did a fair amount of reflection on the first research finding.  Then I noticed – when I purchase material things and use them I am engaged in an individual activity – when I take a vacation, dance lessons, or horseback riding – I am usually doing those things with others.  Made me wonder if the research was measuring was  the pleasure from the purchase vs. experience or solitary activity vs. activities with others?  See what you think?

As always, I thank Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener for his great blogs.  I share them a lot.  He can be reached at 

Spending money to promote happiness

Everyone has heard the old quip “If you don’t think money buys happiness then you are not spending it right.” At the heart of this statement is the controversy over whether or not money factors into our individual and collective well-being. Research is clear that money makes a difference to personal happiness, but that it is not the most important factor and that it can be counterproductive to put too much stock in the emotional benefits of income.

More recently researcher Leaf Van Boven and his colleagues have found that how you spend your money matters to your happiness. They found that people who spent money on experiences– such as vacations, dance lessons, and horseback riding– were happier relative to those who spent on shoes, jewelry, and other material items. To be certain, we all need to purchase some material goods, but when it comes to discretionary income experiences appear to beat material purchases.

In a newly published piece of research Ryan Howell and his colleagues extended the Van Boven studies. The Howell team was concerned with not a single purchase but spending habits over time. They discovered that certain types of people were more drawn experiential buys and were happier. What set this group apart was extroversion, empathy and a sensitivity to rewards. These people are folks with a tendency to want to plumb life for its emotional treasures and they instinctively understand that spending money on experiences is a bulls-eye technique for doing so.

This week, when you are done paying your bills and other fixed expenses try turning your mind to experiences. consider a coffee date or dinner with a friend, or the petrol it will take to transport you to a beautiful hike. Skip the spending on stuff and buy a slice of life instead.
Copyright:  Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener 2012

Thank you, Andrea T. Goeglein, PhD

Feel the spirit of the season
About the author

Andrea Goeglein is part organizational psychologist, part entrepreneur, and all about success—your success. She understands both the pressures you face and the dreams that inspire you. Andrea merges her experience as a business owner with her training in Positive Psychology to provide effective, efficient and challenging personal development products and services. She combines an emphasis on objective assessment with an approach that is always powered by your spirit and guided by your goals. Her professional development offerings are based in theory and backed by direct business knowledge.

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