A happy family sitting in a park

Many Americans have a very special relationship with spending money on material things. We need to own a certain type of tech gadget, certain type of car, certain style of designer clothes, and a certain type of home in a certain type of neighborhood.

Why? Essentially, we link who we are with what we own. And we’re convinced that owning great and greater things will make us happier.

Interestingly, in one study, nearly two-thirds of people  in the $75,000+ household income category said they’d need an increase of 50 to 100 percent in their annual incomes to reach satisfaction, while fewer than 20 percent of those making $30,000 or less said they would need that much.

But, in another study, it was found that most of us can hardly even make room for all that stuff we’re buying.

So…is all this stuff really making us happy?

According to researchers, not as much as we think. A new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that buying “life experiences,” such as a vacation, actually makes Americans happier than material goods.

“People actually do know, and accurately predict, that life experiences will make them happier,” study co-author Ryan Howell, an associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, said in a university news release.

“What they really underestimate is how much monetary value they will get out of a life experience,” he added. “Even though they’re told experiences will make them happier and they know experiences will make them happier, they still perceive material items as being a better value.”

The reason? According to the study, people tend to weigh the economic value of their choices. For example, you know the value of that new laptop. But ascertaining the value of a trip to the countryside? Much harder.

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