Money can't make you happy… if you are only spending it to impress others



15:42 GMT, 19 June 2012

Spending money on once in a lifetime experiences from luxury holidays to concert tickets won't make you happy, according to a surprise study.

But before you cancel that world cruise it's worth noting that you'll only fail to find contentment if your motive is to impress others.

'Why you buy is just as important as what you buy,' said assistant profressor Ryan Howell, from San Francisco State University, who led the study.

'When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase. That extrinsic motivation appears to undermine how the experiential purchase meets their key psychological needs.'

Blissful holiday: As long as you're not just trying to impress someone else

Blissful holiday: As long as you're not just trying to impress someone else

Howell's previous findings showed that buying a life experience made people happier than when they bought material things, because it made them feel more competent and connected to others.

However, in the latest research Howell and his colleagues found that a person's motivation for making a purchase predicts whether these needs will be met.

After surveying 241 participants they found that people who choose to buy life experiences because they were in line with their desires, interests and values reported a greater sense of fulfillment and well-being. They were also less likely to feel lonely and had a greater sense of vitality.

However, people who chose life experiences to gain recognition from others reported feeling unsatisfied and less connected to others.

'The biggest question you have to ask yourself is why you are buying something,' Howell said.

'Motivation appears to amplify or eliminate the happiness effect of a purchase.'

The study has been published in the aptly named, Journal of Happiness Studies.