The psychological perks of paying off debt

An altered link between spending and happiness
An altered link between spending and happiness © racorn/

Let's be honest. Spending money triggers emotions. It can feel good to buy those designer jeans, and it can feel great to anticipate the happiness those jeans will bring. This is what they call retail therapy.

But debt payment is painful, and once you've felt that pain, the equation between money and happiness can change.

Howell's research looks at the lasting emotional impact of different purchases.

"People tend to expect that certain types purchases are going to make them a lot happier than they really will," he says. "It's not that they won't make them happy at all, but their bang for the buck is much smaller than they anticipate."

Typical big bummers: electronic devices, clothing and video games, to name a few. Likely joy creators: experiences, such as dinner with friends or a weekend getaway.

Back in the day when Bostick was sinking into debt, "I spent money on just getting stuff for my adult children and my grandchildren." It seemed important at the time, but climbing out of debt shifted her views on what's truly important. "Now it's like, you don't need to spend that money. They love you, whether it's a $5 gift or a $500 gift."


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