How to buy happiness

Written on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 5:58 pm by Christiane

If you belong to the few lucky ones, who still have some extra cash to spend, don’t “waste” it on the newest gadgets. Instead, buy yourself happiness. You may need it in a tough time like now.

“One can’t buy happiness”, I hear you saying. Well, Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, begs to differ. He believes that if you spend your money right you can increase your happiness.

The trick is not to “waste” your money on material things. Instead, buy yourself experiences, such as a meal out, going to the theater or to a baseball game.

Howell did a study with 154 people ages 19 to 50 and found that people feel more alive and inspired after they have made experiential purchases. They also appreciated the positive memories they were left with. An additional benefit was the social nature of those experiences, i.e. being together with other people and thus satisfying the need for social connectedness. Overall, buying experiences made people happier than buying stuff.

In conclusion, Howell suggests that his findings can also be applied to purchasing gifts for other people. If you give a certificate for a restaurant, for tennis lessons, or a spa visit, you will not only brighten the day for the person, but also create long lasting happy memories.

Christiane is psychologist and Life & Career coach.  She teaches Psychology at a College in the Greater Boston area. Visit her website at

Leave a Reply