A new study says that material purchases, from sweaters to tablet computers, provide more frequent happiness over time, whereas experiential purchases, like a trip to the zoo, provide more intense happiness on individual occasions.
"The decision of whether to buy a material thing or a life experience may therefore boil down to what kind of happiness one desires," said one of the researchers Aaron Weidman from University of British Columbia in Canada.
The researchers assessed the real-time, momentary happiness people got from material and experiential purchases, up to five times per day for two weeks. Material purchases consisted of items such as portable speakers, or coffee makers, and examples of experiential purchases were a weekend ski trip, tickets to a hockey game, or spa gift cards.
Material purchases bring repeated doses of happiness over time in the weeks after they are bought, whereas experiential purchases offer a more intense but fleeting dose of happiness. Additionally, when people looked back on their purchases six weeks after Christmas, they felt more satisfaction about experiential purchases. The findings appeared in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.