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Why you buy is just as important as what you buy.

June 24, 2012


If you buy life experiences such as an exotic vacation or tickets to a major concert in order to impress other people, you won’t get much of a happiness boost, a new study finds.

However, if you spend money on a trip or an adventure for the right reasons — that is, because it fits with your interests and values — you can derive happiness from the experience, said Ryan Howell, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.

“Why you buy is just as important as what you buy. When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase,” he said in a university news release.

For this study, Howell and colleagues surveyed 241 people and found that those who buy life experiences because it meshes with their desires, interests and values reported an increased sense of fulfillment and well-being. These people were more likely to feel less lonely, more competent and self-sufficient.

On the other hand, people who buy life experiences in order to impress others reported feeling less self-sufficient, competent and connected to others.

“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,” Howell said.

The study was published online June 13 in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

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