Road to Happiness: How Can Money Buy Happiness?

In the last few articles, I introduced the concept of achieving happiness following the five W’s I have thought through. These are

•      Well-being of ourselves: physical, mental, and personality

•      Working partner/Spouse/Love

•      Work and Retirement

•      Wealth or absence of poverty

•      Well-wishers (Friends, Family, Culture, Religion, institutions)

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness isn’t spending it right.”

In our last article, I talked about some of the most believed theories that money will buy you happiness to some extent. However, the happiness will level out at around the current income of 105K a year. Here, I will show you how to use your money for happiness. 

  1. Buy an experience and not the stuff: Recently, I was given an opportunity to take my granddaughter to Disneyland. It was a grand parent’s day out. Another option was to work that week and make more money. You know what I chose. That smile, excitement, and even pain of waiting in line on her face will remain engraved with me for a long time. Buying a memorable and enjoyable experience, like going for dinner with a loved one, learning a new hobby, taking a vacation with experience, or going for a hike with friends, will make you happier in the long term than buying an expensive watch or jewelry. Why is that? It’s the hedonic treadmill (it refers to the tendency for our happiness to return to a set point regardless of our circumstances, choices, or accomplishments). As per this theory, our joy and pain usually run out of steam after two years. Experiences do more to elevate our sense of happiness because we anticipate and remember them better. Experience of buying and thinking about buying is as significant as the actual purchase. Another reason experiences eclipse buying stuff is that they often involve other people, and we like social interactions. 
  2. Spend money on other people or a cause: In a 2008 study in the journal Science, author Dunn proved that spending money on others promotes happiness. They focused on two categories of spending: Personal (expenses and gifts for themselves) or prosocial spending (gifting money to others or a charity). First, they took a national sample of people with various incomes and asked them about what they spent on personal or prosocial spending. In the second study, they looked at the employees of a company that gave out gigantic bonuses. Same questions were asked. In the subsequent study, they gave $5 and $20 to participants and asked them to use it on themselves or for others. All three studies produced similar results. Money spent on others or charity brought significantly higher happiness in participants. The astonishing aspect was that the level of satisfaction did not differ whether you spent $5 or $20 on others—no wonder the new social trend of paying it forward used by millennials brings happiness. 
  3. Outsource your mundane and tedious work: We often hear that time is money. So, buying time by outsourcing your tedious tasks will free up your time to spend on what gives you happiness. A 2017 study suggests that spending money on time-saving services (such as a house cleaner, lawn care, or grocery delivery) can make them feel happier than those spending money on material purchases. What are the reasons? Using money to buy time may free up time to do the stuff that you enjoy.  It reduces time pressure that we fill on day to day bases. Buying time can reduce stress and boost happiness, but not all time is equal. Sitting on the couch alone won’t make you happier; you must use your time well. Time spent on obligatory activities is less enjoyable than freely chosen ones. 
  4. Buy Material goods that help you experience joy: So, if you buy a new camper van, think about the purchase in terms of the exciting road trips you’ll take, how you can see better out the windows, or how the stereo system will enable you to belt out your favorite tunes on the way to the national park or a beach.
  5. Express Yourself Through Spending: A 2016 study found that people with a better match between their personality and the personality of their purchases reported more satisfaction with life. So, if you love to travel and identify with an adventuresome lifestyle, spending money on travel (an experience) or even a travel gadget (possession) will give you joy. Follow-up research focused on the differences between spending by introverts and extroverts. Your personality type will define the kind of spending that makes you happy. Introverts found happiness in spending $10 in a quiet bookstore, whereas extroverts loved spending on a drink in a crowded bar — but not vice versa.
  6. Rent a dose of happiness: In these lean times, it’s wise to be frugal. Lyubomirsky, the author of “The How of Happiness,” says you can still enjoy something without owning it, whether it’s a video, cabin hideaway, or a sports car. She says that if you love the thrill of driving a luxury car, rent one occasionally. You’ll get the boost of pleasure but not the hassles of changing the oil and tires or the burden of paying unpredictable repair costs.