How to “buy” happiness

September 20, 2006

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 🙂

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5 things you’ll need when you join a new job

September 18, 2006

After my posts about how to get a job, and what to do once you’ve gotten the job, I though I’d write another post about new job issues.

When I was first looking for a job, I got myself a set of interview clothes. I think we all do that. But what I really wanted was five new outfits to wear to office. I put off buying them because I was broke, and I was glad I waited: the work culture at my office is really laid back, and no-one bothers to dress up.

I’m not very materialistic, but we all want stuff. And when we join a new job, it’s easy to justify purchases in the name of “investments in our future” 😉

There are some things that you really need when you join a new job, and they are:

  1. Clothes: Wait till you join your new organization before you go out and get all the new outfits that you’re planning to buy. You should already own some decent clothes that you can wear to work. If you feel you absolutely must get something new, limit yourself to buying a maximum of one or two outfits before you join. During the interview process, you might have noted how the other people dressed (I didn’t) but that might still not be any indication. Even if attire guidelines are mentioned in a booklet, it might be the norm to not follow them strictly, or to dress even more conservatively than is implied. Wait till you’ve joined, and know the work culture, and the way people dress, before you buy new clothes. And when you do, a good rule is to try to dress a bit like someone in top management whose position you’d like to have, someday.
  2. Shoes: Shoes are part of your outfit, so I should’ve lumped them with clothes. But clothes are something you will really, really need. It may just be worth-while to purchase a pair, if you don’t have anything sufficiently formal and appropriate.
  3. Bag: If you’re a fresh graduate, it’s perfectly acceptable to carry a messenger or book bag to office for the first week. That’s the amount of time you should take to notice how much stuff you’ll need to take with you to office each day, what types of bags other people use, and what types of bags you like and can afford. Of course, needs and fashions change, so it might not be too wise to spend a lot on a bag. Perhaps, this is the time when you could try out those “rent a bag” type services that I’ve heard are available?

Of course, those are the things you’ll need if you’re a broke graduate. If you’re not, and you’re not the anti-materialistic type, you might like to have:

  1. Flashy accessories: Diamond jewelry and the latest cell phones might help if you’d like to create the impression that you’re not in it for the money 🙂
  2. Cool car: It’ll help you imagine that you’re giving your bosses an inferiority complex. And if you have a chauffeur, you’ll never even have to dislike a commute!

That’s all I could think of for now.