Alessandro Spaggiari is the CEO and president of Spal, Inc., an international company manufacturing parts for sports cars, cell phones, and surgical devices. He says for companies to fare successfully in the ever-evolving worlds of technology and capitalism, they must know the secrets to keeping consumers coming back for more. "On average, a single person spends more on consumer goods than a couple spends, combined," he says. "Marketers are happy to see young people — the highest-spending demographic of all— staying single right now." If you're alone, chances are good you'll spend your free time spending — on a ticket to see a film, out for drinks with friends, on a new self-help book, a guitar to practice during quiet nights at home, a new car even if the old one is fine. It's as though we're trying to fill ourselves up with stuff. But those in solid relationships are more likely to keep the funds closer to home, staying in together for a chat and a glass of wine or watching TV instead.
A recent study by psychologists Edward Diener, Ph.D., and David Meyer, Ph.D. led to the conclusion that while people living in wealthy nations are happier than those who live in poorer ones, once an individual has reached an income level that covers essential needs and basic comforts, extremely higher levels of wealth don't significantly impact a person's happiness. Remember late-night ice cream on the fire escape of your first apartment out of college? The first time you paid off a credit card? Chances are you were more fulfilled then than you are a year into a high-paying job. By the way, where's that promotion? How about that tax return I was counting on for a Caribbean vacation? And will my friends think I'm cheap if I buy from the Bed Bath & Beyond wedding registry, or do I have to hit up Bloomingdale's?
My friends: more money, more problems.
And it gets worse. Another study by psychologist Tim Kasser, Ph.D. went even further, finding that people who place great importance on money, image, and status actually report lower well-being than those aiming for simpler goals. The material-oriented participants exhibited more anxiety and depression and reported fewer pleasant feelings and positive relationships than their more down-to-earth counterparts. It's an easy, no-brainer cycle to keep grabbing and spending and wanting more, but it may be the opportunity to love others that truly provides fulfillment and a chance to learn something new about ourselves, the world, and life in general.
So maybe we can always get what we want -- but do we really want to? And if what we want is ultimately pure, glowing happiness... today, learn from Denise. Take a break from spending —even a penny— for two days to a week. You"ll feel better about yourself, your capacity for contentment, and what the world needs most from you.