We live in a culture of immediacy where we think we want everything on demand, but it turns out that we may actually prefer the wait. When we pay for something we won’t get for quite some time, it tends to make us happier, because we forget that it cost us money.
Philip Moeller, writing for US News, explains:
This principle is particularly appealing to me because it turns the basis of our debt-loaded “buy now, pay later” consumption economy on its head. Spending money is, literally, a pain to our brains. That’s one major reason credit cards are so alluring; they separate the purchase from the pain.
But it turns out that paying in advance for something you will consume in the future does the same thing and turns the actual purchase into something our brains regard as being free. Buying pleasurable things and experiences ahead of time — such as a weekend spa getaway or vacation — also frees our minds to imagine all sorts of wonderful outcomes, and this anticipation can add to our happiness. Finally, it’s also true that laying out the money ahead of time is an effective check on overspending. So we can get more happiness and spend less money.
Holidays tend to be one of the most enjoyable purchases you don’t get to enjoy immediately. Not only do you get the pleasure of waiting, but you also receive the benefit of buying an experience instead of a thing.
5 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness [US News]