11 Ways Americans Try to Buy Happiness

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Happy young woman on vacation or traveling
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“Can money buy you happiness?” is an age-old question. Many say no, but plenty of people argue otherwise, and that debate won’t be settled today.

A third of Americans say money makes them happier than love — but more than half of Americans say money causes unhappiness, according to a recent LendingTree survey of 2,100 U.S. consumers across five generations.

Regardless of whether it works, the study found 88% of us have spent money with the intent of making ourselves happier. Many go into debt doing it.

Here’s a look at what we’re most likely to spend money on to find happiness.

11. Delivery or subscription service

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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 12%

Getting something in the mail — expected or not — can certainly provide a bit of dopamine. But the novelty can wear off fast, leaving us with more things we don’t need.

People are also pretty bad at estimating how much they spend on subscriptions, as we detail in “9 Ways ‘Cancel Culture’ Can Improve Your Finances.”

10. Flowers

Happy woman getting flowers
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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 15%

Flowers aren’t permanent, so they might not provide a permanent boost to happiness. But at least one study out of Rutgers University has found evidence that flowers make people smile, boost mood and promote social interaction.

9. Books or magazines

Young man with stack of books.
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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 18%

Both fiction and nonfiction are understandable ways to seek happiness: Imagination and learning are both pleasant ways to while away the hours. This doesn’t have to be an expensive habit, either. Head to your local library or check out “11 Sites That Offer Free E-Books.”

8. Beauty or spa services

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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 19%

Removing stress seems like a plausible way to find happiness, and many people find spa days a luxurious way to unwind. But if they’re a little too expensive to enjoy as often as you’d like, check out “10 Easy and Free Ways to Find Peace When You’re Stressed Out.”

7. Alcohol or drugs

Friends drinking alcohol at a party
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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 20%

More than a few people look for happiness by trying to forget their problems with alcohol or drugs. Research shows nearly 1 in 4 adults have been drinking more to cope with pandemic stress.

6. Tech gadgets

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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 23%

Keeping up with new technology is an expensive challenge but a popular one. After all, if your friends are doing it, you might be tempted too. But keeping up with the Joneses is one of “7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement.”

5. Home decor or furniture

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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 26%

It makes sense to invest in places you spend a lot of time, and many of us have been spending much more time at home during the pandemic.

Freshening up and adding variety to a room can put a smile on your face, but it’s generally not cheap. Check out “12 Ways to Slash the Cost of Furniture” and “8 Tips for Decorating Your Home With Thrift Store Finds” for tips on how to get new decor without breaking your budget.

4. Tickets to an event

concert tickets
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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 27%

Buying tickets to a big event would seem to contribute to happiness in at least two ways. First, there’s the anticipation of the event, something you can look forward to for weeks or even months. Then, afterward, there are the lasting memories to look back on.

3. Clothes, shoes or accessories

Woman shopping for clothes
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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 42%

Flattering clothing can make us feel better about ourselves while comfortable clothing can help us relax.

Whether you’d like to spend less on clothing or get more of it, these stories can help lead you to a happy place:

1. Food/desserts (tie)

friends
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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 45%

Two things tied for the most popular kind of spending to find happiness, and likely neither will surprise you.

The first is food and desserts. It’s hard to top a good meal, whether it’s home-cooked or over a get-together with friends at your favorite restaurant.

Whether your goal is to save or savor, here are some stories to snack on:

1. Travel (tie)

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Respondents who have bought this to find happiness: 45%

For some, it may be too early amid the pandemic to think about traveling again, but for others, nothing compares to getting away from it all. Like event tickets, vacation and travel can provide an ongoing lift to our spirits.

Stretch your adventuring dollars with “10 Travel Freebies to Snag in 2022” and “11 Smart Ways to Save on Travel.”