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As Americans take a break between back-to-school spending and holiday shopping — perhaps while also contemplating a purchase of the newest iPhone and other temptations — here are some notions to consider.

—Are the Joneses happy? “I think there’s more awareness that more stuff does not make us happy,” Philleo says. If the mythical Joneses were being honest, you might hear tales of anxiety and debt, as they shop till they drop and compete in the spirit of “whoever dies with the most toys wins.”

“Part of it is finding out what the Joneses have to do to keep up that lifestyle,” she says. “It can be very stressful.”

A growing body of academic research shows that experiences, especially with other people, tend to make us far happier than more stuff. Granted, some people can get a brief “high” from purchasing, but it’s fleeting. By contrast, memories of experiences tend to improve over time — as unpleasant events fade and enjoyable parts remain. So perhaps a plane ticket to see a distant friend is better use of money than another pair of shoes in that same color you already have. Money guru Suze Orman doles out financial advice on a variety of topics, but one constant is her mantra, “People first, then money, then things.”

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