We are one day away from Thanksgiving, which means that there are not only plenty of advertisements of pumpkin pie filling and turkeys being on sale, but consumer products and services and everything in between, to kick off the holiday shopping season. I am fortunate to have come to a point in my life in which I have everything that I want, so Thanksgiving Day for me is truly about a time of reflection and giving thanks more so than it is about waiting in line for a Black Friday deal. This year, I am grateful that everyone in my family continues to have good health, especially my 2.5 year old son who had a near death experience from his peanut allergy.
If you really feel the urge to spend this weekend, consider the cost vs. benefit of your purchase—the ultimate indicator of which is whether that purchase will bring you rushing excitement or more lasting happiness. Here are three ways to spend your money if you’re looking for the latter, according to Lifehacker:
1. Financial security
Pay down debt or learn to grow your money so you will have more time for yourself and/or the people you love. Stress from debt is the greatest killer of happiness, and it can negatively affect your health. The high you get from paying down each debt will be greater than the excitement you get from any material goods purchase.
When Ken Jennings, who holds the record for the longest-winning streak on Jeopardy, was asked how the money he won from Jeopardy has changed his life, he said that it has given him more time to spend with his family.
For me personally, I have spent thousands to learn how to grow my money. I am also saving up for the ultimate luxury purchase: time. I do not want anyone to dictate my time until I am 65. Every dollar I save is going towards the goal of buying back my time so I can spend it on my family and myself.
In a survey conducted by Harvard psychology professor, Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, 57% of respondents reported greater happiness on experiential purchases compared to 34% of respondents who reported that material goods brought them happiness. The study also found that it didn’t matter what that experience was as long as the person was engaged in the activity and fully present in the moment. Now I understand why Buddhist monks focus on mindfulness! According to the survey findings, a wandering mind is the cause of diminished happiness. So if you are trying to save money or can’t afford to take a trip somewhere, practice mindfulness and focus on being present.
Elizabeth Gilbert, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, explained that change plays a large part in happiness. Her research found that buying big things like a house didn’t make people happier, but when they engaged in new and different activities, they reported being happier. She was surprised to learn that for something that people spent so much of their income on (i.e. a big house), they weren’t that much happier, even though a home provided stability. Humans actually need change. This level of happiness can be increased when you do it with other people, as being social makes us happy (even for introverts like me).
I love this because it goes to show that you don’t have to spend money to be happy. You could check out a new hiking trail with friends or just pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch or dinner at a nearby park for a change.
Michael Norton, a social science researcher, conducted an experiment in which people in Canada were given money and instructed to either spend it on themselves or on other people. He ran the same experiment in Uganda, and found that in both cases, people reported greater happiness when they spent it on someone else. Giving does not have to be limited to just money—you can also donate your time and volunteer (e.g. to serve meals at a shelter, help an elderly neighbor shovel snow from his front yard, etc.).
And for those who already have some things on their list of needs (not wants) and are planning to take advantage of the Black Friday sales, make sure you check the historical pricing of what the price has been on Amazon through www.camelcamelcamel.com to determine if that sale price is really a steal (some retailers will increase their prices in early November to give the appearance that the item is on sale during Black Friday).
What has been your favorite purchase of all time?