The Science of Spending Money On Happiness: Experiences vs. Material Possessions

Dr. Amit Kumar Ph.D | Assistant Professor of Marketing and Psychology | Researcher


In this episode, we delve into the fascinating world of scientific research, exploring how we can spend our money to increase our feelings of happiness and overall well-being. Our guest, Dr. Amit Kumar, is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. With a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Cornell University and a background from Harvard University, Amit’s research centers on the scientific study of happiness. His work has been featured in prestigious media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, and National Geographic, making him a leading expert on the topic.

Why You Should Listen:

We explore the intricate relationship between happiness and spending money on experiences and material possessions. Dr. Kumar’s research demonstrates why spending our money on experiences can lead to more lasting satisfaction in our lives, allowing us to experience more moments of happiness and increasing our well-being. We discuss why material purchases don’t have the same impact and how we can shift how we spend our money. Through engaging discussions, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the psychology behind happiness and learn actionable strategies to enhance your own life satisfaction.


  1. Types of Happiness from Experiences: We discuss the various dimensions of happiness derived from experiences, including anticipatory utility, experienced utility, and recalled utility. Understanding these distinctions can influence the stories we tell ourselves and how we perceive our lives.
  2. Comparing Experiences and Material Purchases: Discover why people derive more satisfaction from experiences than material possessions. We explore how this extends beyond time frames and why comparisons play a different role in each scenario.
  3. The Power of Waiting: Waiting can have different effects on our happiness, depending on whether we’re waiting for experiences or material possessions. We delve into why waiting for experiences can lead to positive emotions and enduring satisfaction.
  4. Identity and Experiences: Learn why experiential purchases contribute more to our sense of self and identity than material possessions. We discuss how our life stories are composed of experiences and why this makes them more satisfying.
  5. Regrets and Experiential Purchases: Dive into the psychology of regrets and how they differ between material and experiential purchases. Understand why experiential regrets often revolve around missed opportunities.
  6. Promoting Social Connections with Money: Explore how money can be used to foster positive social connections and enhance overall well-being. We discuss the correlation between experiences, relationships, and happiness.
  7. Thinking About Material Possessions as Experiences: We examine the concept of viewing material possessions through the lens of experiences. Can this shift in perspective lead to greater satisfaction and enduring happiness?
  8. Maximizing Happiness: Discover practical strategies to maximize happiness through mindful spending. Learn how to align your purchases with your sense of self, social connections, and experiences.
  9. Gratitude and Experiential Purchases: Delve into the research showing that we tend to feel more grateful for experiential purchases compared to material possessions. Learn how practicing gratitude can amplify the positive impact of experiences on our well-being.
  10. Community Well-Being and Pro-Social Infrastructures: Explore the potential for governments and policyholders to enhance community well-being by investing in pro-social infrastructures that promote experiential activities and social connections.


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