How to “buy” happiness

Yes, you can buy happiness.

According to a 2004 poll by Associated Press, 56% of people earning more than $75,000 a year say they are “very satisfied” with life, while only 24% of people earning $25,000 or less a year say the say thing about their lives. However money can’t guarantee happiness.

After all, according to those numbers, 44% pf people who earned more than $75,000 a year didn’t claim to be “very satisfied” with life.

There are certain things in life which are more important to happiness, than money: good health, a happy family life, good relationships, friends, a stress-free (or less stressful) life. Money can help to improve many of these factors, but first, a brief mention of the two most important things that money can’t buy:

  1. Hearts: Just like the song, you “can’t buy me love”. Getting someone to love you takes a lot of things, including plain dumb luck. Never try to spend your way into someone’s heart.
  2. Respect and Admiration: Your new luxury car or huge plasma TV will not make people admire you. Yes, they will think you are trying to impress. And of course they will wonder about just how insecure you are. But if you want someone to look up to you, you’ll have to make use of what you have inside yourself, not what you have inside your garage.

Despite the fact that money can’t guarantee happiness, there are some ways in which money will make you happier:

  1. Comfort: Money can buy you a sense of security. Not having to worry about the details of survival is a wonderful things. Insurance and health cover remove some of the uncertainties that would plague us otherwise.
  2. Education: We’re happier when faced with a challenge, and we have an immense capacity to grow. Whether it’s learning about art history or taking cooking classes, most of us have interests which we’d be happier pursuing.
  3. Travel: Travel broadens our horizons and lets us experience the wonder of something new. The funny thing is, even if a trip is bad, we tend to remember a lot of great things about it, later on.
  4. A life full of experiences: I am definitely a person who’d prefer to save the money than to splurge on Starbucks, but small daily pleasures do add up, whether it’s gourmet coffee, great home-cooked food, or a glass of nice wine. For some people, life is better when it’s enriched with the arts: reading a daily poem, or visiting the museum, might be your cup of tea.
  5. Memories: Life is better when you have something to remind yourself of your wonderful past. Take pictures, buy silly souvenirs, and leave things that remind you of where you’ve been, nearby.
  6. Beautiful surroundings: Money can buy you a nice home, nice interior decoration, and expensive flowers. As humans, we tend to appreciate the beautiful things in life, so it’s worthwhile spending to make our living spaces a joy to look at.
  7. Beauty: We may be fickle, but study after study shows that attractive people are happier. I’m completely against obsessing with looks, but spending a bit for a good haircut, comfortable and stylish clothes, and mood-enhancing perfume, certainly pays off. And any woman will tell you that shoes are a girl’s second-best friend 🙂
  8. Nearness to work: I can’t remember the exact studies right now, but I once read about how the daily commute adds to our stress. And I don’t think that anyone loves their commute. So, live near your office, or work at home. If you can’t do those, try to make the commute less horrible, be it with an i-Pod, or a chauffeur-driven car.
  9. Health: Money can’t buy you health, but you can certainly spend on healthy things that will make you feel better, including organic food, a swimming pool and gym membership. It’s up to you to put the healthy things you buy, to good use. Of course, money can also buy treatment options, but a good health plan should cover those.
  10. Relaxation: Soothing music, yoga classes and massages: don’t dismiss them before you’ve tried them.
  11. Friends: In no way can money buy you friends. But we’re happy when we’re social, and money spent on friends and being friendly, makes us happier in the long run. So, that Sunday brunch, your best friend’s birthday gift, and the dinner party you were planning to host, are all worth the time and effort. And money.
  12. Kids: Obviously, I’m not suggesting you buy kids, or even attempt to buy their affection. But they’re expensive brats, and spending on them goes a long way (as any parent will attest). I feel like this is a self-explanatory point, but whether it’s spending to get the kids out of the way (baby sitting) or to make them more tolerable to be around (education, entertainment, food, etc) kids tend to make us happier.
  13. Pets: Furry friends make our lives fun, and studies show that they lead to lower stress. Unfortunately, just like kids, pets tend to be expensive: apparently, they’re worth that expense.
  14. Romance: Your relationship with your s.o. is the most important one in your life, so spend what you need to, to make it work: from flowers to diamonds to a second honeymoon.
  15. Time: This, in my opinion, is the single most important thing that money can buy. None of us have more than 24 hours in a day. Trying to extract the most out of each of those precious hours is one of the most difficult things to do. Money can help you to do it, be it through gadgets, a chauffeur or a private jet.

I’m a very anti-consumer-debt person, so I don’t think any of the above is worth buying on credit. Although buying something on credit might make you happy temporarily, in the long run, you’re likely to have to cut back on your lifestyle in order to repay those loans.

Many of these items are not applicable to people trying to live on a stringent budget, for whatever reason. However, if you’ve got the cash and are considering whether to buy a yatch or a luxury sedan, don’t. Spend the money on a chauffeur instead, or use it to visit your local cafe each day, where you can enjoy gourmet coffee and meet new friends.

This post is part of the group blogging project at Problogger. It’s also a continuation of my series on how to be happy, the first of which was on happiness and health.

I’ve added this post to my new blog, Happiness Creator. Please visit it 🙂


33 Responses to How to “buy” happiness

  1. […] Life: Personal, Business, Social says “Yes, Virginia, money can buy happiness”. […]

  2. Brad Shorr says:

    A great list! I feel better just reading it, no kidding. However, you can have my cats!

  3. Shonnie says:

    You’re right about our posts being complementary (Everyday Gifts – How You Can Show Your Love Without Spending a Dime). I especially appreciated the reminders about the things money cannot buy. I also think you emphasized many things that add to our long-term happiness which is different than making an impulse buy that doesn’t fit into our overall vision for our lives–that’s simply wasting one’s life energy (a.k.a. money). Peace!

  4. Matt says:

    Nice list. It think it is unfortunate that we have to rely on money so much. Oh well. How To is up also.

  5. Matt says:

    Nice list. It think it is unfortunate that we have to rely on money so much. Oh well. My How To is up also.

  6. Matt says:

    Nice list. It think it is unfortunate that we have to rely on money so much. Oh well. My How to is up also.

  7. Jersey Girl says:

    Can’t buy integrity.

  8. MamaDuck says:

    Sure, money can help with the happiness, but it isn’t everything either. Our how-to is up as well if you’d like to check it out!!

  9. Olivia says:

    Very nice list. You hear a lot of the time what money can’t buy, but you very rarely see a frank list about what money CAN buy. I think that your take on this is honest and creative…also an excellent title!

  10. k says:

    One aspect of health and money is having the ability to treat chronic, expensive illnesses. Many plans have a cap on certain things, such as coverage of prescription drugs and number of psych appointments. When I was a girl, I experienced panic disorder and clinical depression. My treatment was very expensive, including time at a private mental hospital. My mother, who grew up poor and always worries about money, has never forgiven me for the expense, even though my illness was debilitating. Money would have made a big difference in my life and the lives of my family members. Thinking about it is still heartbreaking.

  11. Ray Dotson says:

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. The connection between money and happiness is one I’ve thought about a lot over the years, but never more than the last few months. You need to have a certain amount to be happy, I think.

    Wherever you are in the world, you need some means to take care of life’s necessesities according to the local cultural standards. Here in the U.S.A. that can be quite a lot compared to most others. I really believe that loving what you do for the money is more important than the exact amount, though.

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  13. san says:

    Excellent. I will add this link to our Resource centre website – you’ve done a great job.

  14. […] And finally, for ways to buy yourself some happiness, check out this post […]

  15. […] Wealth is a part of success. Many people related wealth to evil for the wrong reasons: maybe they’ve met wealthy people they didn’t like, or they link wealth with greed and selfishness. But money, as a medium, is powerful. You can use it to buy security, to make yourself happy, to donate to a worthy cause, to start a useful business, and many other things. Shameless plug … I wrote a post about this a while back, which you guys might enjoy, called "How to ‘buy’ Happiness" And here’s an opposite and complementary one: "18 non-monetary things you can do to be happy" __________________ Tips on enjoying life and being happy, doing well at work, at your business, and life in general… please visit my blog: Life, Etcetera […]

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