Spending money on travel instead of a new pair of designer shoes leads to greater overall wellbeing, a new study revealed.

If you had R1 000 left in your wallet, would you go to dinner with friends or buy a new dress? How you answered could define your happiness, your likeability, and your overall outlook on life.

Two recent studies have examinedthe adage “money can’t buy happiness”, concluding that materialistic buyers are less happy, and even less liked, than experiential spenders.

People believe that being able to purchase material possessions will improve their lives. However, psychological research suggests that people who spend money on travel, food and other cultural experiences are able to get along better with others, feel less anxiety in social situations and have a greater overall well-being than those who spend their money on a pair of this season’s shoes.

Nearly 10 000 people answered online questionnaires about their personality and purchasing habits in a study carried out by researchers at San Francisco State University.

The results were published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, with researchers calculating that an “experience shopper” had greater overall life satisfaction than a material consumer.

One of the reasons for increased happiness for experiential spenders was that they were risk takers, said Ryan Howell, an assistant professor at San Francisco State University and the study’s lead researcher.

“You are taking a bigger risk on a night at a new restaurant or play. You can’t return a trip or a meal the way you can return something from a store.”

Another reason, the researchers found, was that people felt a greater sense of vitality or “being alive” during the experience and then later, in reflection, Howell said. “As nice as your new computer is, it’s not going to make you feel alive,” he said.

The initial joy of acquiring a new object, such as an outfit, faded over time as the person became accustomed to seeing it every day, experts said.

Experiences, on the other hand, continued to provide happiness through memories long after the event is over.

Researchers believe their findings will be helpful in making people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases more aware that life satisfaction and happiness can be influenced by their spending habits.

This study reflected similar findings by researchers at the University of Colorado who found that materialistic buyers were less well-liked by their peers than experiential buyers were.

Participants in the study, reported in 2010 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, expressed negative stereotypes of materialistic people, considering them to be more selfish and self-centred than experiential people.

While these impressions were mostly attributed to the inherent reputation of materialistic people, rather than an admiration for experiential people, participants said they found the experiential shoppers more charismatic and wanted to spend time with them.

By comparison, they found the materialistic shoppers shallow.

The stigma of materialism also led participants to dislike discussions based on materialistic, rather than experiential, purchases.

Experts also point out that people are less self-conscious when comparing experiences than they are when sharing stories of material possessions.

It would probably bother you more that your friend bought the latest Prada heels you have been coveting, than if she saw more historic and grand sights on her trip to India. You would probably like her more for it, too. – Daily Mail