Happiness chart

Shelling out for experiences won't make you more satisfied than buying stuff, one study suggests

For years people have told us that buying experiences, not things, is the key to a happy life. A new study from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences appears to burst that bubble. After analyzing 10,000 responses to a national survey of Hungarian households that contains a life satisfaction score, the researchers found no real difference in happiness between participants who spent more on experiences such as entertainment and holidays than on clothes and electronics.

In another recent study, researchers at UBC and Harvard Business School asked some 6,000 adults in Canada, the U.S., Denmark and the Netherlands how much they spent each month on housecleaning and other services that gave them more time. Respondents also rated their satisfaction with life and answered questions about time stress. Even after controlling for income, those who bought themselves free time reported greater happiness. Almost half of the 850 millionaires in the survey sample said they spent zilch to outsource tasks they disliked. Those folks may be less happy, but their thriftiness could help explain why they’re rich.