Spending Money on Experiences to Impress Others Won’t Make You Happy

Research shows that if you want to be happy, it’s a better bet to spend your money on life experiences rather than material possessions. That is, unless you’re engaging in those life experiences just to enlarge your ego, a new study from San Francisco State University shows.

Spending money on an experience — whether that’s going on a trip or going out to show — only makes you happier if you’re fulfilling your own desires, interests and values, the study authors found. Paying for an experience just to gain recognition, on the other hand, makes you feel less autonomous, competent, and connected to others, and therefore less happy, the researchers say.

“When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase,” says study co-author Ryan Howell, Ph.D. “The biggest question you have to ask yourself is why you are buying something. Motivation appears to amplify or eliminate the happiness effect of a purchase.”

The study appears online in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

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