Money Creates Happiness, When We Buy Things We Love

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They say money can't buy happiness, but it can certainly buy a nice house, a boat or plane tickets to Hawaii. That has to count for something, right? According to scientists, it does.

A study from the Cambridge Judge Business School and department of psychology at Cambridge University found people who spend money on things they enjoy (hobbies, interests, etc.) tend to be happier than their peers. What they mean, of course, is not spending money for the heck of it, but rather spending it on things that express one's personality.

For example, having the extra money to spend on things you enjoy, like hiking, cycling, shopping, or traveling, would make you happier than simply spending money on the things you have to, like house maintenance and bills.

To figure this out, researchers matched spending categories on the well-known "Big Five" personality traits:

  • openness to experience
  • conscientiousness
  • extraversion
  • agreeableness
  • neuroticism

Then they compared participants' purchases to their personalities and found that those who generally spent money on things they enjoy, and things that match their personalities, reported being a lot more satisfied in life than those who did not spend money on extracurricular activities.

Makes sense, but why spend the money on a study to figure this out?

Researchers say that by studying how happiness is achieved, they hope to "provide more personalized advice on how to find happiness through the little consumption choices we make every day," said Dr. Sandra Matz, of Cambridge's department of psychology.

What's more, she added that spending money on products that help us express ourselves better could be as important to our well-being as finding the right job, the right neighborhood in which to live or even the right partner.

The findings, however, could carry the law of unintended consequences. For instance, researchers say, companies can use the information to better target marketing toward consumers through social media and other platforms (don't they already do this, anyway??), thus getting consumers to spend more on products they like.

To which we ask: Who are we to tell them no, if it makes them happy?