Remember affective forecasting? Since satisfaction is a function of expectations relative to performance, when we fail to adjust our expectations in light of the inevitable hedonic adaptation, we end up dissatisfied.
The second problem with hedonic adaptation is that the obvious solution appears to be buying something new. Maybe you need a new smartphone to replace your slightly scratched-up old one? If this is your thinking, you’ve just hopped onto the hedonic treadmill.
Now the only way to maintain your happiness is to spend more and more money to get better and better versions of everything. So, how can you get off this treadmill?
Tip number three: Buy experiences, not things. It turns out people end up happier when they buy experiences rather than things. For example, a study that tracked how older adults spent their money found that only one category of spending was related to happiness: Leisure purchases, such as going on trips, seeing a movie at the cinema, and cheering at sporting events.
One reason for this is that we adapt to purchases of experiences more slowly than purchases of material things.
So, the next time you’re tossing up between buying tickets to a festival or getting the latest gadget, pick up your scratched-up smartphone and pre-purchase some festival tickets for you and your friends.
Adrian R Camilleri is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Technology Sydney. This commentary first appeared on The Conversation.
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