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From the Editor's Desk

How to spend your money for maximum happiness

Years of behavioral and psychological research have given us insight into how to splurge optimally.

The idea that materialistic values can obstruct our path to happiness dates back hundreds of years. The Buddha encouraged a balance between asceticism and pleasure; early Christian monasticism preached spiritual transformation through simple living; philosopher Lao Tzu warned that if you chase after money, "your heart will never unclench."

Centuries later, the question of whether money can bring us happiness remains a subject of intense debate. After all, as our culture of consumption expands exponentially, our lives increasingly revolve around money - Earning it, spending it, and saving it.

Consider the numbers. Between 1901 and 2003, U.S. household spending increased 53-fold, from $769 to $40,748 (that's $2,000 in 1901 dollars). And what we spend on has also changed. Today, the average American family spends about 50 percent of their income on necessities like food and shelter, compared to almost 80 percent in 1901. That means more discretionary spending on consumer goods and services, including the 11.3 million tons of clothing and 27 millions tons of plastics that end up in U.S. landfills every year.

But though the things we buy might make us happy in the moment, that feeling atrophies over time. It's what psychologists call the "hedonic treadmill," says Amit Kumar, an assistant professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, whose research focuses on the science of happiness.

Continued here


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