It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness.” (New York Times, “But Will It Make You Happy?” 8/7/2010)
Running a full-fledged friend search is a costly endeavor. Money I could otherwise be spending on purses and shoes is going toward dinners and improv classes. I’m trying to look at the entire quest as an investment—one of both time and money—in my future. Strong relationships are the key to happiness, and a lifetime of delight is worth far more than I could spend in one year. The cost of dragon rolls must be less than that of high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease, and those are only three of the myriad health risks associated with loneliness.
I was glad to read in Sunday’s New York Times that I’m onto something. According to this article (a worthwhile read whether you’re interested in friendship or not), money really can buy happiness. If you’re spending it correctly. Owning more stuff doesn’t do the trick (though my latest batch of Forever 21 outfits begs to differ), but buying experiences—vacations, concert tickets, classes—will guarantee a return on investment.
When I first graduated college and was learning how to navigate the world (still working on that one, clearly) a coworker told me about the budget she’d set herself. She allowed herself $20 a day for food, $100 a week for shopping. Or something like that. What I remember specifically is my confusion. “What about going out?” I asked her.
“What about it?”
“Don’t you need money for going out?”
“Oh, no. I don’t really like doing things. I like owning things.”
Huh? A new sweater would not keep her company. I pictured her sitting at home atop a pile of jeans and handbags, throwing them in the air with a “mwahaha” cackle.
When it comes to spending, a professor in the Times article found that “the only category to be positively related to happiness was leisure: vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment like golf clubs and fishing poles.” Not surprisingly, all of these encourage social interaction. This same professor even put a price tag on the most talked-about relationship: “A $20,000 increase in spending on leisure was roughly equivalent to the happiness boost one gets from marriage.” Amazing. He didn’t specify how much a good BFF was worth, but I’d venture it’s about the same.
I’m hoping to buy The One for less than 20 grand. But good to know she’s got black market value.
Which do you spend on more—objects or experiences? Do you notice a difference in the level of gratification you get from one over the other? In retrospect, what was the best money you ever spent?