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Surprise! Money may buy happiness. Here's what's on our wish list.

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

The joy of smart splurging

They say money can't buy happiness, but maybe "they" are wrong. Here are the reasons a few splurges might just bring you joy — and a few ideas to get you started.

We've all heard that "money can't buy happiness," and that "the love of money is the root of all evil." Certainly, there's some truth in these old adages, but they don't paint a complete picture of money's role in emotional well-being.

Researchers find that smart spending causes happiness

In a recent study featured in Forbes Magazine, San Francisco State University researchers found that money can indeed buy happiness — as long as consumers are savvy, self-aware and experiential with their purchases. So what does that mean, exactly? It means that you should spend your money on making memories and enjoying your life rather than on material items like clothing, purses and cars.

The study also found that the types of experiences really matter. For instance, you can't just purchase a day of skydiving if you're afraid of heights. You won't enjoy it, and you won't be happy about it. Instead, if you want to get bang for your buck, you have to have enough self-awareness to selectively choose the memories and experiences that will matter to you.

Splurges that make sense

Take some time to think through the experiences you would add to your bucket list if money were no object. The experiences you rattle off can provide a window of self-awareness, and it's these splurge-y purchases that can bring happiness in the long run. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

If you're a contemplative at heart. Go to a stateside yoga retreat, like the ones at the Mount Madonna Center in California, for an enlightening vacation that won't destroy your budget. (Mount Madonna Center, $50-$160 per night) 

If you're a natural gal. Buy a high-quality tent, camping supplies and a state park pass so you can jet out of town on the weekends to reconnect with nature. The good stuff isn't cheap, but it's worth it if it will allow you to do what you most enjoy.

If you love to treat yourself. Find a monthly spa subscription package and put it on your calendar for a once-monthly day of pampering. Many franchises offer this service for massage and facials at a reduced rate. (Massage Envy, $60 per month)

If you enjoy entertaining. Look for one expensive household item that would either make entertaining easier or more stylish, like this totally gorgeous and fairly impractical marble cheese board. (Williams-Sonoma, $80)

If the summer sun speaks to your soul. Stay outside even more this summer by purchasing beautiful and comfortable outdoor furniture, like this conversation set, for your backyard. (Wayfair, $678)

If food is your love language. Mail-order personal chefs, who knew? Check out Kitchensurfing to book your own private chef for a date or girls' night in. (Kitchensurfing, $75 per person)

If "fashion maven" is your middle name. Buy a statement piece for a special occasion and beyond. We love this classic locket for a night out at the opera and an heirloom piece for your future children. (Hamilton Jewelers, $695)

If you're a fixer-upper. Do you love to putter around the house and yard? Purchase an expensive and one-of-a-kind plant to grow in your garden, like hydrangeas or lily of the valley.

These are just our ideas. Now do some self-reflection so you can purchase the experiences that matter most to you.

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