Rise of the "experience" shopper: Materialism is overrated…but those great days out really do the trick

Rise of the 'experience' shopper: Materialism is overrated…but those great days out really do the make you happy

Next time you think about purchasing a pair of shoes or designer handbag – consider spending your pennies on a holiday instead.

Splashing out on weekend holiday breaks and concert tickets makes people happier than indulging in spending sprees at High Street stores.

Buying life experiences gives people more satisfaction than spending their money on possessions, a new report has shown.

Weekend break

habitual 'experiential shoppers' reaped long-term benefits from their spending and reported greater life satisfaction

Extroverts and people who are open to
new experiences tend to spend more of their disposable income on treats,
such as concert tickets or a weekend away, rather than hitting the mall
for material items.

These habitual 'experiential shoppers' reaped long-term benefits from their spending as they reported greater life satisfaction, according to the study led by San Francisco State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Ryan Howell.

For his latest study, Howell and colleagues surveyed nearly 10,000 participants, who completed online questionnaires about their shopping habits, personality traits, values and life satisfaction.

'We know that being an “experience shopper” is linked to greater wellbeing,' said Howell, whose 2009 paper on purchasing experiences, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, challenged the adage that money can’t buy happiness.

'But we wanted to find out why some people gravitate toward buying experiences.

Participants’ personality was measured using the “Big Five” personality traits model, a scale psychologists use to describe how extroverted, neurotic, open, conscientious and agreeable a person is.

People who spent most of their disposable income on experiences scored highly on the 'extrovert' and “openness to new experience” scales.

'This personality profile makes sense since life experiences are inherently more social, and they also contain an element of risk,' Howell said.

'If you try a new experience that you don’t like, you can’t return it to the store for a refund.'

The authors suggest that it could be easier to change your spending habits than your personality traits.

'Even for people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases, our results suggest that getting more of a balance between traditional purchases and those that provide you with an experience could lead to greater life satisfaction and wellbeing.'

To further investigate how purchasing
decisions impact well-being, Howell and colleagues have launched a
website where members of the public can take free surveys to find out
what kind of shopper they are and how their spending choices affect

Data collected through the 'Beyond the Purchase' website will be used by Howell and other social psychologists.

students in Howell’s Personality and Well-being Lab will use the site
to study the link between spending motivations and well-being, and how
money management influences our financial and purchasing choices.