Does shopping online make you happier? Research by Thomas DeLeire and Ariel Kalil suggests it may depend on what you buy. It has become generally accepted that having a base level of wealth allows you to take care of the basic necessities in life–food, shelter, healthcare, etc.– and helps you to be happier. However, the benefits of purchases beyond basic needs become murkier. DeLeire and Kalil’s article in the International Review of Economics reveals the following three insights into maximizing your feelings of happiness when shopping online or elsewhere:
1) Buy experiences not products
DeLeire and Kalil’s study indicates that paying for experiences such as vacations, concerts, or family outings are much more likely to increase your happiness in the the long-term relative to buying physical goods like cars, clothing, or houses. Memories of experiences are often things people can carry with them and continue to provide value for a lifetime, unlike most other purchases.
2) Plan your purchases well in advance
It turns out we derive great pleasure from the anticipation of a purchase. So if you plan a trip to Hawaii six months in advance you can enjoy the idea of escaping to Hawaii for six months, whereas if you book a ticket for tomorrow it doesn’t have the same effect.
3) Make purchases that enhance your social connections
People who maintain closer social ties tend to be happier and healthier, so purchases that increase your social ties with friends, family or colleagues can provide more value over time. So the next time you can choose between going to Vegas by yourself or going on a staycation with the family, you may want to choose the staycation even though it might not immediately be as much fun.