Money Actually Can Buy Happiness — But On One Condition

Money can in fact buy happiness, according to a new study, if your spending matches your personality.

The University of Cambridge study, published in the journal Psychological Science, analyzed 76,863 UK bank spending transactions made by 625 individuals over a six-month period.

The purchases were grouped into 59 spending categories that were then matched to the “big five” personality traits — openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — they aligned with most.

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“Eating out in pubs,” for instance, was linked to extraversion, while “charities” and “pets” was tied to agreeableness.

The participants were then asked to complete a standard personality and life satisfaction questionnaire, the results of which were then anonymously matched to their bank transaction data.

Those who spent more on things that fit their personalities were found to report greater life satisfaction, an association that was even stronger than total income or total spending and life satisfaction.

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For instance, extroverted participants spent an average 52 British pounds ($73) more annually on “pub nights” than did introverted participants. Participants with high conscientiousness, on the other hand, spent an average 124 British pounds ($174) more each year on “health and fitness” purchases than their low-conscientiousness counterparts.

“Historically, studies had found a weak relationship between money and overall well-being,” said Joe Gladstone, an author of the study.

“Our study breaks new ground by mining actual bank-transaction data and demonstrating that spending can increase our happiness when it is spent on goods and services that fit our personalities and so meet our psychological needs.”

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The researcher believe their research could be useful to online merchants who can use customer information to recommend personality-matching products and services to not only increase their sales but also to heighten their customers’ happiness, which would in turn improve their relationships with their customers.

“Our findings suggest that spending money on products that help us express who we are as individuals could turn out to be as important to our well-being as finding the right job, the right neighborhood or even the right friends and partners,” said Sandra Matz, the lead author of the study.

“By developing a more nuanced understanding of the links between spending and happiness, we hope to be able to provide more personalized advice on how to find happiness through the little consumption choices we make every day.”

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