Study Shows Buying Luxury Items Makes Us Miserable

Laura Lee
Feb 08, 2020

It is an easy assumption to make that buying luxurious things would make someone feel like a million dollars. But the truth is quite the opposite. Let’s admit it, shopping has the power to make you feel better. There’s no better feeling than getting a compliment on a brand new shiny object. We believe to some subconscious extent that buying items will improve our lives. More times than not, indulging in a new fancy thing will spark some satisfaction before ultimately fading rather quickly. According to research from Boston College and Harvard Business School, the psychological effects of buying something fancy are often neither positive nor neutral. For most people, owning luxury items actually makes us feel bad.

Nailya Ordabayeva, study author and associate professor of marketing at Boston COllege’s Carroll School of Management says that previous research supports the idea that luxury is appealing to consumers “because it promises status and confidence.” She continues, “But there has been limited research on how consumers actually feel when they consume luxury products, and we were interested in figuring out whether or not this confidence boost that’s promised by luxury in fact materializes, or are there unexpected consequences of indulging in luxury for consumers?”

Cup of coffee in a glass mug sitting on top of a stack of exclusive lifestyle magazines

Via Reshot

Ordabayeva said that consumers’ who purchased something nice experienced a “dissonance between what luxury represents and who they truly are. And that generated what we call the impostor syndrome of luxury consumption.” Two-thirds of all 1,000 research subjects (regardless of income level) felt that buying a luxury item made them feel “inauthentic” and it didn’t match their true identity. Ordabayeve says even luxury products purchased for use in private like skincare made consumers feel this way. Even luxury items bought on sale. If you find the opposite is true for you, there’s a reason behind that. Ordabayeva says “an inherent sense of psychological entitlement” might make you feel less of the impostor syndrome. “We found people who feel inherently entitled, who felt they deserve the best things in life, were the only group of individuals with lower feelings of inauthenticity” regarding their luxury purchases, says Ordabayeva.