Happiness? Give me 'stuff' over experiences any day

The authors of this happiness study have missed life's finer joys

Share
Related Topics

Many of you will have seen the sensational news at the weekend that, after all, money can buy you love. Or, if not love, then at least health and happiness.

According to a paper written by three American psychologists, which has found favour among Downing Street's policy makers, wealthy people have a better diet, more free time, more fulfilling jobs, nicer holidays and, I suppose, more stuff. And if they put their money to work wisely, they can indeed be happier, too.

Not exactly earth-shattering news, but what took my attention were the authors' suggestions for changing our spending habits to open the gates to happiness. I found I could make an equally convincing case for behaving in precisely the opposite way.

For instance, the authors advise to buy experiences rather than things. No object can provide as much lasting pleasure as "seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on an African safari". I've been on safari only once, and as well as having a nasty dose of the runs, and waking up to the terrifying sight of an iguana in my tent, I couldn't help feeling that the Masai Mara, with its Land Rovers full of camera-toting tourists, had become a glorified theme park. Give me my plasma telly any day.

Next, they advise us to "pay now and consume later" on the basis that delayed gratification is psychologically beneficial and will help us to avoid impulse purchases. Wrong! Consume now and pay later, that's my advice. The pleasure of having – even for a moment – something for which you haven't yet paid is hard to beat. (Warning: this only works with items you could afford in the first place.)

Then they tell you to buy less insurance, suggesting that we should rely on our "primal coping strategies" when something goes wrong. I'm not sure how my primal coping strategy would have coped with having my golf clubs nicked recently if I hadn't a very nice young lady in Warwickshire at the end of a phone offering to replace them.

So we come to the book's advice to "beware of comparison shopping". This may "distract consumers from the attributes of a product".

Sorry? Have they not felt the surge of joy, that indefinable delight that derives from thinking we're ahead of the game? We've backed a horse at odds better than the starting price (it almost doesn't matter that it loses), or we've saved ourselves hundreds of pounds shopping around for (dare I say it) insurance. These little victories, my friends, are what really constitute pecuniary pleasure.

It's not the fact that we have made a financially sound deal, it's the profound enjoyment of having our judgement vindicated. And as many of us start another week attempting to earn our way to happiness, it would do well to bear in mind Dorothy Parker's famous words: "If you want to know what God thinks about money, look at the people He has given it to."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam