Scientists have reported for some time that conspicuous consumption doesn’t lead to happiness. In today’s business climate, conspicuous consumption has declined considerably. But some new research on happiness suggests that the new, more frugal consumer buying practices that have resulted from the economic crisis may result in happier consumers. New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to keep up with their neighbors.
In an article in the Aug. 8,2010, New York Times, (“Will you be happy after you buy it?”), Stephanie Rosenbloom reports that studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. “The latest round of research is, for lack of a better term, all about emotional efficiency,” she writes: “how to reap the most happiness for your dollar.”
Research recently published by Thomas DeLeire at the University of Wisconsin in Madison examined nine major categories of consumption. DeLeire discovered that the only category to be positively related to happiness was leisure: vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment like golf clubs and fishing poles. He compared the happiness derived from different levels of spending to the happiness people get from being married. (Studies have shown that marriage increases happiness.) “A $20,000 increase in spending on leisure was roughly equivalent to the happiness boost one gets from marriage,” he said, adding that spending on leisure activities appeared to make people less lonely and increased their interactions with others.
Rosenbloom writes that “research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness. Academics are in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us happier.”
So before you quit your job just to make more money, I urge you to read the entire article.