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<em>NYT Sunday Review</em>: Elizabeth Dunn's Front Page Article On Happier Spending
Economics | June 24, 2013

NYT Sunday Review: Elizabeth Dunn's Front Page Article On Happier Spending

Pay now, consume later. That's the advice economics speaker Elizabeth Dunn puts forward in her front-page Sunday Review article in the New York Times. (She wrote the article in partnership with her Happy Money co-author Mike Norton). New technology and expansive credit allows for instant gratification; it numbs the pain of purchasing. Studies have shown, however, that you actually get more fulfillment from paying for an item or service in advance. That's because delaying your gratification makes you anticipate and appreciate your purchase more. Not only that, but it also keeps you from overspending.

"Just as the sensation of burning tells you to pull your hand from the stove, the pain of paying can keep spending in check," Dunn explains. "Paying high prices for goods and services activates the region of the brain associated with the anticipation of actual physical pain." When we pay for something upfront, we are forced to think about whether we can really afford it or not. Delayed gratification, or, what the French call "réjouir," also  increases the pleasure we get from our purchases. As Dunn concludes, technology that aids us in consuming now and paying later actually "robs us of our réjouir period." These new payment options may be convenient, but Dunn challenges tech companies to look to happiness research before developing new services. In her book and her talks, Dunn shows us how we can get more joy out of our spending. If you do it right, Dunn proves, you actually can use your money to buy you happiness.
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