Blog of Sara Jakša

Spending Based on Personality can Increase Your Happiness

I have recently read a pretty interesting article. I think by now it quite widespread knowledge, that more money does not make one happy. It helped until about 60.000$ (based on US standard), and after that it has minimal effect. So it was pretty interesting to see a scientific article, that had a different thesis.

The article Money Buys Happiness When Spending Fits Our Personality talks about how people with different personalities spend, how well this predicts their happiness level and if this could be manipulated to increase people's happiness. The quick answers were that people with different personalities spend money on different things, that the more a person spend in accordance to their personality, the happier they were (which was the stronger predictor than total income and total spending) and this can be manipulated by making people spend money on certain things.

Lets get first to the point of personal relevance: how can this help me spend money, to make me more happy? Well, I used the aggregate data from the article and created a small program, that helps you figure this out. Here you just input the percentile scores for each Big Five trait, and it will generate a score for each activity in the dataset. Since there are a lot of them, you can set a threshold, so only activities higher than certain values are shown.

If you don't have a Big Five percentile test, there are a couple of places, that you can get it. I recommend the SAPA test, but this one can be quite long. If you have a long text written in English or a Twitter account where you tweet in English, you can also just put it in this IBM Personality Tool, and it will also generate you a personality profile. But any test, you can find on the internet, and gives you results from 0 to 100 will work. Just search for Big Five personality tests. Or any apps, that will give you the same type of results from some other stuff. I know that there exists at least one, were it is calculated from Facebook account.

Extraversion:

Neuroticism:

Agreeableness:

Conscientiousness:

Openness:

Only show activities with score higher than:

Based on my results, spending money on books would make me happier. Which I agree with, as most of my money, after spending for neccesities (rent, food, ...) goes for books, DVDs, courses and conferences. Books being one of the important parts.

Now, that I got my programming self-plug out of the way (I still hope it was useful to somebody), I will return back to the article. I will first copy the table of different categories and their correlations with different personality traits. Here you can see some of the connections.

Category Openness Conscientiousness Extraversion Agreeableness Neuroticism
Accountants’ fees −1.81 2.02 −1.40 −0.68 −0.62
Advertising services 1.98 0.70 2.04 −0.04 0.34
Airports and duty-free shops −0.50 0.96 0.34 −0.18 −0.02
Arts and crafts 2.51 0.20 1.05 1.71 −0.46
Bakers and confectioners 1.45 1.59 0.86 1.41 −0.80
Books 1.71 1.92 −0.82 1.53 −1.39
Cable and satellite TV 0.48 0.00 1.29 −0.17 0.14
Car rentals −0.53 1.39 −0.06 0.31 −0.96
Caravans and camping 1.65 0.60 1.51 1.00 −0.64
Catalogue and bargain stores −0.34 −0.27 0.35 0.54 −0.21
Charities −0.35 1.65 0.10 2.31 −1.39
Cinemas 2.30 0.22 1.75 0.71 −0.02
Clothes 0.83 0.44 0.96 0.89 −0.44
Coffee shops 0.89 1.24 0.45 1.79 −1.23
Computers and technology 1.36 2.05 0.28 0.19 −1.00
Confectioners and tobacconists 0.75 0.21 0.77 0.42 −0.06
Days out and tourism 2.19 0.57 2.25 1.10 −0.28
Dental care −1.25 1.79 −0.59 0.32 −0.59
Department stores −0.30 1.28 0.70 0.57 −0.62
Digital 1.55 1.05 0.77 0.02 −0.45
Discount stores −0.17 −0.42 0.32 0.28 0.19
DIY projects 2.22 1.37 1.20 0.98 −0.54
Eating out: pubs 1.35 −0.41 2.22 0.40 0.48
Eating out: restaurants 1.56 0.44 1.74 0.91 −0.39
Entertainment 2.67 −0.43 2.51 0.31 0.49
Family clothes −0.28 0.43 0.00 1.16 −0.96
Florists 1.69 1.38 1.13 1.87 −0.98
Foreign travel 2.54 0.65 2.15 0.85 −0.11
Gambling 1.55 −2.08 2.33 −1.81 1.98
Gardening 0.59 1.75 −0.73 1.94 −1.59
Gift shops 0.83 0.94 0.55 1.74 −0.94
Hair and beauty 1.91 0.31 1.49 0.85 0.22
Hardware −0.78 1.73 −0.61 0.04 −1.22
Health and fitness 0.32 2.22 1.29 1.00 −0.93
Health insurance −1.61 1.52 −1.11 −0.16 −0.50
Home furnishing 0.63 1.48 0.17 1.38 −1.22
Home insurance −2.05 2.40 −1.46 0.33 −1.48
Hotels −0.16 1.69 0.31 1.55 −1.63
Information technology 0.93 1.36 0.33 0.15 −0.80
Jewelry 1.60 0.73 1.43 0.96 −0.61
Life insurance −1.30 2.21 −1.02 1.11 −1.25
Mobile telephone 1.02 1.33 1.65 0.33 −0.13
Motor sports 1.34 0.09 2.32 −0.55 0.82
Music 2.61 0.12 2.33 0.94 0.15
Newsagents −0.22 0.76 1.06 −0.29 0.12
Pets 1.14 0.08 2.04 1.98 0.24
Photography 2.33 0.69 1.44 1.09 −0.33
Residential mortgages −2.10 1.98 −1.40 −0.48 −0.85
Shoe shops 0.40 1.19 0.43 0.58 −0.77
Sports 1.44 1.30 2.24 −0.41 0.77
Stationery −0.14 1.98 −0.78 1.51 −1.63
Subscriptions −0.43 1.42 −0.26 0.44 −0.86
Supermarkets −0.69 1.27 0.51 0.58 −0.73
Takeout food 0.84 −0.07 1.16 0.23 −0.19
Toys and hobbies 2.19 −0.90 1.94 0.78 −0.06
Traffic fines −2.25 0.91 −0.58 −2.33 1.34
Travel 2.51 0.24 2.37 1.18 −0.20
TV license −0.17 1.29 0.26 −0.33 −0.39
Unions and subscriptions −1.04 1.26 0.42 −0.58 0.25

One of the experiments was also quite interesting. They collected introverts and extroverts. And then they gave half of each the voucher for book and half of each a voucher for a drink in a bar. Then they asked them, when they were making purchase, about their happiness. The extroverts were satisfied with both, but there was a large difference with introverts. They were a lot more happy with the book.

What can this help us? Well, for one, if you have no idea what to give somebody for a gift, and you don't want to ask them, it help help you choose something, that they might be more happy with. It help help you see, if you are spending more than average on something that makes you unhappy, and you can try a test to spend less, to see if that makes you happier. You can increase the spending for things that make you happier. I don't know, I think there are a lot of way, this can be used, just like most self-knowledge tidbits.

I also added the Jupyter-Notebook analysis of it.