Posted by Rebecca
Not really…. Everyone knows that.
An interesting study was published in 2003 by psychologists Van Boven & Gilovich on the subject. Their findings were consistent with writings by Aristotle, admonishment of Jesus Christ, and studies of individuals like philosopher Fromm and economist Scitovsky, “that materialistic people tend to report lower subjective well-being than nonmaterialistic people.” And I’m sure you’re all thinking, ‘right, I know that.’ But bear with me.
What they also found, however, is that there are some cases in which money can buy happiness. Experiential purchases – “those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience” – do increase one’s level of happiness over a lifetime. They concluded, “Our research suggests that individuals will live happier lives if they invest in experiences more than material possessions.”
Well, that’s good news! Especially for someone who lives in a tiny space, and doesn’t have room for more stuff. So, let’s say you have a wad of bills just burning a hole in your pocket…. Can you think of some things you could spend your money on that would improve your life experiences? Of course there are the obvious travel purchases that enrich your life and give you a whole new perspective of the world. But what about things you could purchase at home, in your city, that would make life better. Here are a few I came up with:
– A bigger barbecue or patio set, or a re-do of your yard that would allow more entertaining. Perhaps you long for summer evenings spent enjoying kebabs and sangria with loved ones. Even if your inside is small, maybe your outside would be a great place to hang out with good friends.
– An annual membership to a museum. I’ve done this a couple of times, and I love it. On cold and rainy days or afternoons where you just want to get out of the house, a museum with revolving exhibits awaits, to keep you mesmerized for hours.
– An improved entertainment system. Maybe you would love to throw the world’s greatest Superbowl party for you and a couple of friends, but are worried your 1993 Sanyo will konk out just as the game catapults into overtime. A new TV might be just the thing you’re looking for.
– A fancy dinner party. One of my roommates of old talked endlessly about an amazing party she had thrown in her previous town. She purchased and prepared all the food, had everyone dress up, painstakingly decorated every inch of the yard, and held a dinner party that I’m sure all 50 of her guests will remember for a long time. The fact that she reminisced about it so much was proof that the money was well spent and the experience was priceless.
– A really great bottle of scotch that you can share with a friend or two. My dad once said, while we were perusing the aisles of a liquor store, that if he had a bunch of money to blow, he would love to buy that bottle of Louis XIV scotch listed at $1,400. A frivolous purchase that he would treasure, and sip, for months, maybe years. Even better when you have a good friend and scotch snob to share it with.
– A gift for someone else. There is more happiness in giving than receiving, and watching someone open an unexpected, thoughtful gift is worth a million bucks.
The report went on to urge communities to make an abundance of experiences available to increase the contentment of its citizens. The last sentence of the study is my favorite, “Both individuals and communities would thus do well to heed the slogan of the Center for the New American Dream: ‘More fun, less stuff!'” And as the pink trailer will attest, that is my motto too!
Here are some photos of me experiencing other people experiencing art at the MOMA – Museum of Modern Art in New York City. That was $25 well spent!