Do things or experiences make us happier?
Experiences make us happier, more grateful, and less susceptible to unfavorable comparisons.
Have a question or comment? Let us know.
Spending money on experiences tends to make people feel happier than spending money on things before, during, and after consumption (Kumar 2022). In general, having a strong materialistic value orientation is associated with poorer well-being (Dittmar and Isham 2022).
- Experiences make us less subject to feelings of jealousy or regret because they are more unique and therefore less susceptible to internal and/or social comparison (Carter and Gilovich 2010; Carter and Gilovich 2012).
- Consumers are less sensitive to price when it comes to experiences vs. things (Mann and Gilovich 2016; Bastos 2019).
- Experiences tend to be more social than things (Caprariello et al 2013)
- Experiences are more likely to be talked about than things, and people derive more pleasure from doing so (Kumar and Gilovich 2015; Bastos and Brucks 2017)
- Experiential purchases foster greater feelings of gratitude (Walker et al 2016)
However, some limitations apply:
- The experiential advantage is reduced for negative experiences, for solitary experiences, for lower-SES consumers, and when experiences are relatively utilitarian. Existing estimates of the experiential advantage may also be inflated by publication bias (Weingarten and Goodman 2021).