Buying happiness: Spend on time and experiences this season
A warning from experts this Black Friday: paying too close of attention to monetary gifts could cause more harm than good.
“We do this 'Keeping up with the Joneses' thing, where we compare what we have to what other people have. But really, that is a recipe for unhappiness,” says Christine Whelan, a clinical professor of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As more and more people hit the stores for some retail therapy, Whelan advises shoppers to spend their money wisely.
“When we get a new thing we think the cool gadget is all the rage. But then it just becomes another thing that we have,” she explains. “But think back to your last vacation, think back to the last fun thing that you did with your family. Those are experiences that actually tend to get better over time."
Most of us would love to add happiness to our shopping cart this winter season, but it is not always as simple as that. Whelan says the important thing is not how much money you spend on a gift, but rather what gift you give your loved ones.
“Too often we think about 'spending' as gift giving and actually buying things. But often it's the experience. Spending time with someone,” she says.
NBC15 crews spent Black Friday at Hilldale, speaking with shoppers about their holiday plans. While many were excited about sales, most shoppers say the holidays are more about the memories.
“I like giving [my family] gifts better than me paying for my own gifts,” says Morgan Gavinski of Verona. “It just shows them, like, I care for them. And also just seeing their face and making meaningful gifts for them and seeing their reactions makes me happy."
An age-old adage: giving gifts is better than receiving.
“It’s fun to give presents, it’s fun to give. I mean I don’t think we need to spend a whole lot of money to do that, and it’s not about how much you’re giving, but it’s just about the intention behind the things that you’re giving someone that makes it special,” says Danielle Loebach of Sun Prairie.
Some shoppers say they even limit the amount of gifts they give each year, but instead pay more attention to family time.
“My family doesn't really focus on gifts anymore for the holidays,” shopper Anja Pustaver says. “For my side of things, I just like gift and ornament for everybody, and then I'll make something homemade."
As you and your family hit the stores this holiday season, know there are other ways to spend than just by using money.
“Spend on experiences rather than things. Buy time, but use that time that you buy to actually do things that bring you joy,” Whelan tells NBC15 News.
To maximize your gift giving this season, experts suggest you narrow down your core values, people you care most about and your favorite activities. Use those to create an experience that you and your family can remember forever.