Money can buy happiness. It’s not a typo. Unlike popular belief, money does buy happiness. Studies have proven it. And that’s a great vindication for power shoppers just in time for black Friday (for those who read my blog from other countries, black Friday is the busiest shopping day in America.). After all people are already sleeping in tents outside Best Buy stores so they can get their new flat screen TV for a bargain. While some of us chase the deal, others chase the emotional high they get out of a purchase, we all ultimately seek the happiness that owning stuff brings. Hold on. Not so fast That’s not how money buy happiness, however.
According to author Robert Frank, in his book Luxury Fever, the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting. Spending money on experiences, especially ones with other people, produces positive emotions that are both meaningful and more lasting. For instance, when researches interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities such as concerts and group dinners out, brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, TVs or expensive watches.
In another study, 46 students were given $20 to spend. The ones who were told to spend the money on others were happier at the end of the day than the ones who had been instructed to spend the money on themselves.
The activity of spending money on others is called “prosocial spending.” As we enter the Christmas season, we often contemplate what we are going to ask for Christmas or, in my case, what new fun, expensive toy I’m going to “reward” myself for being, well, me.
What if instead of treating ourselves with stuff we can’t really afford to impress people we don’t really like, we decided to create meaningful experiences for those we love? How different would our Christmas be if we chose to bless those whom cannot pay us back in any way? Your act of prosocial spending might be financially helping a friend who’s going through a tough time, or perhaps it’s spending time and resources on someone you don’t know well because, if you don’t, no one else will.
Search your heart. I’m sure you’ll come up with a list of people you are uniquely positioned and gifted to help. I’m challenging you as I’m challenging myself. I hope we don’t ignore the prompting to make a difference and spend more on ourselves.
As you read this, did some one(s) come to mind?