TFT: Will we get back to that level of spending before the financial crisis?

LV: It's funny: If you read old magazines, people always misjudge human nature. They tend to think that things will be very different in the future, and that's just not true. After the 1987 stock market crash, people said that no one's ever going to speculate on stocks again. Well, that lasted 10 years until the Internet bubble, and after that popped, we just started bidding up housing prices. I would guess that 10 years from now, there's going to be a bubble in something else. That's just human nature. We like to think we can get rich quick.

But I do hope there is at least more consideration of what we're doing with our money. We live in a rich country, and there's a lot of worry about inequality now, but many people have quite a bit more than two generations ago. So the question is how do we use those blessings to make a good life for ourselves and those we care about. I'm hoping that we'll retain some of that mindfulness about money. As we're doing this, it'd be great if the government could be more mindful with their money and ask what we're getting for all the expenditures we have as a country.

TFT: One interesting point you make is that a lot of little purchases can make you happier than a few big purchases. But doesn't buying that Frappuccino every day at Starbucks add up?

LV: They can add up without realizing it, but if you actually let yourself enjoy them and remind yourself that they are little pleasures, then you can continue to get joy out of them every time. Because happiness is more a function of frequency than intensity, and it's not that there's anything wrong with intense experiences, but you can't have them very often. If you have $5,000 to spend, you can spend it on one really nice table, and that's it. Whereas if you took that same $5,000 and said, "Every week I'm going to go out to dinner with friends," every time it would be different, and you could do it hundreds of times and get hundreds of happiness boosts instead of just one.

TFT: It seems like after buying a new purse, we realize it didn't give us that much satisfaction, but then we do it again.

LV: Some purchases can make you very happy, but there's no point spending mindlessly on things that don't. Know yourself and figure out what sort of activities give you a lot of happiness, and many of these things don't have to cost anything at all -- a picnic in the park with friends, a free concert or museums with discounted days. These are great options instead of purchasing another thing.

Experiences have a triple-happiness whammy -- you anticipate the experience beforehand, which is almost as pleasurable as the thing itself (we look forward to Christmas almost as much as Christmas morning); you enjoy having the experience; and you savor the memory afterwards. Every time you think of the experience, you get a little happiness boost. It's really three in one.

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TFT: Have you made any purchases you regret?

LV: I have a lot of clothes in my closet I haven't really worn. I thought I was getting a bargain, but if you don't wear something, it's not a bargain.

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