Some spending does make you happier

The array of great deals on homes, cars and other big-ticket items these days is tempting. But before you get out your checkbook, consider this: Will snagging that awesome price really make you any happier?

It’s a tricky question. Getting a real steal can be awfully satisfying, as behavioral economists and psychologists know. “Getting a good deal takes on its own value,” says Leaf Van Boven, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

But a low price may lure us into buying something we don’t really need — or even enjoy, after the thrill wears off. So, says Dr. Van Boven, “It may be useful to ask the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”

The good news is that some spending really is more fulfilling. Experts who study happiness have repeatedly found that people get the most joy out of time with family and friends or activities that provide personal enrichment, such as hobbies. What matters is not the amount that we spend, but the quality of the overall experience, so a picnic can be as satisfying as a weekend getaway. []

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