Experiences or things? Places or possessions? It seems to be an age-old question that's been the subject of many articles and academic studies. Recent research from San Francisco State University, along with a handful of medical journals, all point toward experiences being the best predictor of happiness. They concluded that the initial thrill of purchasing things fades but the joy and memories of experiences last a lifetime. "Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods," psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich told Fast Company. "You can really like your material stuff—you can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you."
The truth is, there's so much noise surrounding our newfound love for vacation that one seminal study is hard to settle on. And new data suggests that it depends on how much money you have. People in lower socioeconomic groups get just as much, if not more, satisfaction when they spend on objects versus experiences. But one thing is for sure, if you take your Instagram feed at face value (which, generally, may be the worst possible idea) we all seem to be traveling more, which means going deeper into our pockets than ever.
The pressure to "get out there" has had such a large impact that the economy of tourism is changing. Startups are finding success in targeting thrill-seekers with pre-planned trips across the globe—all you need to do is put in the time off request. Other companies are faking it by renting out a grounded plane to stage glamorous travel photos (at $250 an hour) in case you don't have the time or money for an actual trip.
But what if getting off the ground isn't all that important to you? For some, the beaches of Bali are far and a sunrise in Bryce Canyon is worth sleeping through. The good news is that the "things" category is wide. And for many, material goods are still, well, good.
So, what items are bringing the most happiness if we value something to have and to hold? The key there seems to be those items that have real staying power. Investments that pay dividends, getting better year after year. For those people, it's worth splurging on possessions that will last longer than a holiday weekend when they improve our lives and our moods. Regardless of what camp you're in, we've collected some ideas for your next big purchase.