It's an age-old question and one that has been debated for many years. So, what do you think - can spending money make us feel good?
Well, let's take a deeper look, shall we?
First, the term "retail therapy" is called that for very good reason. Many people go to the mall to spend money when they're feeling a little blue, and studies have shown that making a purchase or two can lift our mood.
Think about the feeling you get when you purchase a new clothing item. Purchasing that new top, jacket, or pair of jeans can put an extra spring in your step making you feel more confident and, therefore, feeling better.
No one can really deny the momentary joy we experience. However, that's the catch – purchasing material goods provides us with an instant gratification - a quick fix - but not a long-lasting feeling of happiness.
As with everything else in life, spending is about moderation. Purchasing an item can make us feel good in the moment, however, making frequent purchases is unlikely to provide the same level of joy every time.
Spending money on yourself is important – a new pair of shoes, a massage – but within reason. On the opposite end of the scale, not spending any money any money on yourself when you actually feel that it may give you a short, temporary boost of happiness, is depriving yourself, which, of course, is not going to produce feelings of joy.
The Joy Of Experience
When it comes to spending money, whether it's a new clothing item, a new phone or a new car, when purchasing material goods, the "rush" or novelty wears off quickly as the item becomes part of our everyday life.
Research has shown that instead spending on experiences like a vacation, dining with friends, or going to a baseball game or music festival, will provide a long-lasting feeling of joy than material goods.
The joy experienced is due to the social element – humans are social humans. When we share experiences with friends, family, or even strangers, it leads to longer-lasting memories.
The Luxury Of Time
In addition experiences producing longer lasting joy than material goods, as recently reported in an article on NBC, studies have shown that people also feel happier when they save time instead of buying things.
Researchers conducted an experiment where people were given $40 for two weeks. During the first week, they had to make a physical purchase like a shirt, for example. During the second week, they had to spend the money on something that would save themselves time such as employing someone to do their house cleaning instead of doing it themselves.
The results showed that participants felt happier when they saved time more so than when they made a physical purchase.
The Bottom Line Is...
Studies conclude that, yes, spending money does make us feel good. "Money can buy happiness if you spend it right," says Elizabeth Dunn, psychology professor at University of British Columbia.
While spending more on experiences and creating moments with friends and families has been proven to make us happier than money spent on material goods, it's OK to seek out a temporary, fix by indulging in some "retail therapy" occasionally if that's important to you.