Cars, weddings expensive; bikes, potlucks make us happy

In a thought-provoking column in Jeffrey Tierney's blog, Geoffrey Miller, author of a new book on consumer behavior, asked readers to make two lists; one of the 10 most expensive items they'd ever paid for (including services, experiences, taxes, divorce settlements, etc.) and one of the 10 things they'd paid for and had made them most happy. In a follow-up column, Miller and Tierney analyze the 207 comments.

Unfortunately, due to the great number of times those lists overlapped, the two decide that money does buy happiness (or, money buys cognitive dissonance, which is more likely in my opinion).

More interesting, I thought, were the items that appeared most often on one list, but not the other. Two that appeared on the "most expensive" list frequently, but not so much on the "happiness" list: cars (including insurance, gas and maintenance) and wedding ceremonies.

On the other end of the spectrum, appearing far more often on the "happiness" list and not on the "most expensive" list were bicycles (of all kinds, from commuter bikes to mountain bikes) and meals shared with friends, from dinner parties to potlucks.