Forking out your hard-earned dough on material things, goes the age-old argument, is disappointing in the long run—the retail equivalent of empty calories. If only you’d spent that $300 that went to your 14th pair of shoes on a trip to Breakneck Ridge with your pals instead, you’d have come away with a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. As a shopping enthusiast, however, I’ve always been more than skeptical about this line of thinking. (What can I say? I dig my rugged new Moods of Norway boots just as much as I like to wear them on crazy hikes with good buddies.)
But as it turns out, science has my back. According to Harvard professor Michael Norton, Ph.D., co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, “It’s not that money can’t buy happiness—it’s just that we’re spending it the wrong way.” Which means there is a right way. So, what are some things we can walk into a store and purchase today that will help improve our lives tomorrow? For answers I turned to an all-star team of better-living gurus—academics, life coaches, and professional organizers. Let’s shop.