• Discounts and special offers
  • Subscriber-only articles and interviews
  • Breaking news and trending topics

Already a subscriber?

By signing up, you accept Moneywise's Terms of Use, Subscription Agreement, and Privacy Policy.

Not interested ?

Experiences, live and in concert

Gilovich came to a forceful conclusion at the end of a 20-year study: Buy experiences, not things. The irony here is that many people think the experience will fade, while the big bathroom renovation, for example, will continually delight.

There are multiple reasons for why outsized things don’t cut it. First of all, anything we buy we soon adapt to — and whatever hole it once filled in our lives soon returns. Envy also plays a role, as there will always be some Jones family that has a little more than we do.

But the experience of live entertainment leaves a lasting imprint on us. As Gilovich points out in his research, experiences and shared events bolster identity, connection, and social behavior in ways that luxury cars or a souped up home theater system just can’t. As one of his graduate students remarked in an Atlantic article, “People don't like hearing about other people's possessions very much, but they do like hearing about that time you saw Vampire Weekend."

Kiss Your Credit Card Debt Goodbye

Millions of Americans are struggling to crawl out of debt in the face of record-high interest rates. A personal loan offers lower interest rates and fixed payments, making it a smart choice to consolidate high-interest credit card debt. It helps save money, simplifies payments, and accelerates debt payoff. Credible is a free online service that shows you the best lending options to pay off your credit card debt fast — and save a ton in interest.

Explore better rates

‘Frequent doses of lovely things’

There are certain circumstances where things can buy happiness but as Dunn puts it, “frequent doses of lovely things, rather than infrequent doses of lovelier things” have a more lasting effect.

It’s the kind of joy that collectors or people who cruise the thrift shop for a $300 jacket marked down to $3 know — and one that again points more towards shared experience than blind consumerism. Collectors have a way of finding fellow collectors; thrift shopping is a fun activity when taken on by teams of eager bargain hunters.

Those frequent, small pleasures also tend to differentiate. Dunn points to other ways you can enjoy this kind of happy spending, such as dinner with friends or buying a book you can’t wait to devour. (If it’s a book on enhancing happiness by taking friends to dinner, so much the better.)

Spending on others

From the Midas fable, to “Citizen Kane,” to the trials of the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, stories abound of people whose riches did nothing to reinforce social connection or a sense of community. And let’s face it, self-indulgence isn’t exactly an ideal foundation for generosity.

Dunn led a well-known 2013 study where she handed volunteers a $5 or $20 bill with a simple assignment: Spend it on yourself or someone else by the end of the day. Those who spent the money on others reported more happiness. The authors concluded that “the rewards of prosocial spending are observable in both the brain and the body.”

Why wait for an academic to hand you some spare cash? Science is on your side if you take a friend out for coffee or treat them to a “lovely thing.” You need not spend a small fortune to get a major jolt of joy. Financially speaking, how’s that for a big-ticket return on investment?


This 2 Minute Move Could Knock $500/Year off Your Car Insurance in 2024

Saving money on car insurance with BestMoney is a simple way to reduce your expenses. You’ll often get the same, or even better, insurance for less than what you’re paying right now.

There’s no reason not to at least try this free service. Check out BestMoney today, and take a turn in the right direction.

Lou Carlozo Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.


The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.