Shop Yourself Happy

By Olga Khazan
Olga Khazan
Olga Khazan
November 28, 2014 Updated: November 28, 2014

This year, a few pure souls might celebrate a freegan Christmas. Some will opt for a “Buy-Nothing” holiday. Others still will pull off a DIY Hanukkah.

The vast majority of people who have some disposable income, however, will do what all the glossy store catalogs implore this time of year and “SHOP NOW.” Even among those who think that Black Friday insanity, and holiday consumerism in general, are terrible, the default setting during December is to buy things.

In 2011, Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia, Daniel Gilbert of Harvard, and Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia sought to figure out how to shop in a way that optimizes happiness. They came up with 8 rules:

1) Buy experiences, not things

2) Help others, not yourself

3) Buy lots of little things, rather than one big thing

4) Don’t buy the warranty

5) Buy now, consume later

6) Consider the details

7) On the other hand, don’t comparison shop

8) Follow the herd

The psychologists conclude that, “Money can buy many, if not most, if not all of the things that make people happy, and if it doesn’t, then the fault is ours.”

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*Image of “Black Friday” via Shutterstock