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

Chemistry Teacher - Jan 2015

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: We are currently looking to recruit a Che...

Special Needs Teachers Required - Nottingham

£110 - £145 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are rec...

Special Needs Teachers required - Derby

£110 - £145 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are rec...

English Teacher - January 2015

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: English Teacher role in a successful Acad...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: war on drugs, shocking polls and Balls family news

John Rentoul
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs  

Nick Clegg: We should to go to war on drugs, not on addicts

Nick Clegg
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes