To reach the conclusion, Tatzel asked 329 college students to complete surveys about their shopping habits and happiness.
Those surveys showed four shopping personalities - big spenders, people who buy everything full price and buy only the best; value seekers, people who seek bargains on nice things; non-spenders, people who don't spend much and don't want to.
And experiencers, who spend freely on experiences, such as good food or travel, but not materialistic.
Experiencers are the happiest; big spenders are the least happy, and have the most credit card debt, Tatzel said, reports CBS News.
The study has been presented in Boston at the American Psychological Association's annual conference.