When we examined the principles in the book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, we discussed how to make wiser spending choices in general but some of this wisdom can be applied to the holiday shopping season. If you are still hunting for gifts and bargains, you could use a little help from the book’s authors–behavioral researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton–as you make spending decisions.
Buy Experiences. Whether you are a parent who has watched children play with the boxes that once contained their gifts or a gift-giver who has seen someone become quickly bored with a gadget, you know that sometimes acquiring things is not necessarily the way to feel joy.
There are many ways to buy experiences instead of things. Some families forego gifts and take a holiday trip instead. Other people offer to spend with someone cooking dinner or working on a craft project. Whatever the case may be, look for ways to give that don’t have to wrapped or placed under a tree.
Buy Time. If someone you know has expressed a desire to be free from some kind chore like yard work or housecleaning, and you feel it is appropriate, you can pay for someone else to do that work as a gift. And if you are really careful with your budget, you can give the gift of your time and help out yourself.
Invest in Others. There is someone on your list who may not want one more item to fill their home but would be very happy if you would donate to a cause on their behalf.
This is a time of year when people may spend with certain expectations. One way to jeopardize your happiness is to spend money you don’t have or don’t want to spend because you think it will inspire gratitude or because you are looking for a certain reaction from the recipient. Consider the gifts you give carefully.