9 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness

by Shannon Ables
Portland writer
The Simply Luxurious Life

“Money, while it can’t always buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards.” –Fortune magazine

As a high school student, I can remember always doodling the phrase “Be Happy” on my worn out homework folders whenever I had free time and was lost in thought. Now whether that was due to the recent Billboard success at the time by Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” or my innate desire to seek a life of absolute bliss, I’ll never be certain. Regardless, as humans, when we make decisions, at the core of our motivation is to attain happiness.  In other words, we seek a sense of living that isn’t overrun by fear, pain and loss, but rather adoration, appreciation and affection.

Now everyone’s definition of happiness is most certainly uniquely their own depending upon their culture, values, passions, talents, experience, age, etc., but intrinsically humans do seek out the feeling of happiness in one way or another.

Known as the Easterlin Paradox, in the 1970s, the notion that more income did not increase one’s happiness was accepted, perpetuated and succinctly reiterated throughout our culture in the clichéd maxim “Money can’t buy you happiness”. However, it is a maxim without teeth, in other words actual data. And in an effort to see if it did indeed have substance, a new study revealed this year from The Brookings Institute has proven the opposite. More money does in fact increase one’s level of happiness.

But before you see this as an excuse to work harder and longer hours to bring in more money, the evidence must be qualified. Simply having more money doesn’t necessarily make you happier, it’s how you spend it that equates to more happiness, as the above quote reminds us.

After much anticipation (here), I finally had the opportunity to read Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton’s recently released book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. Upon completing it, I was reminded and reassured that if managed wisely, the money we have worked so hard for can indeed enhance the quality of our lives.  Today I’d like to share nine ways we all can allow money to increase the happiness in our lives. The ideas below are a combination of what is shared in the book based on research as well as a few discoveries of my own through personal experience.

1. Buy Time

Time is definite and stubborn. There is only so much of it, and no matter how long we complain about not having enough, it will never relent to give us a 25 hour day even we when turn in our request for more time to finish the project before the deadline.

So how does one go about buying time? After seven years, I finally installed an automatic sprinkler system in my yard. I cannot fully express how elated I am to have my time on the weekends to do as I please or during this upcoming summer to vacation without my plans revolving around how I will get my yard watered so I won’t have to return to a brown, dying landscape after a relaxing getaway.

Perhaps you hire a house cleaner so you can spend more time with your family, or purchase plane tickets rather than having to drive in order to enjoy more time at your destination and less stress on the road.  When you use your money to give you more time to enjoy what you love to do, your happiness is increased.

2. Buy Experiences

Whenever the holidays or birthdays roll around, I advocate for family and friends to spend their money, if they wish to give gifts, on time together doing things that create more memories rather than on another “thing” that only brings immediate pleasure that instantly dissipates.

Even when you are planning how you wish to spend your money on yourself, choosing to spend money on a class, a tour or an event rather than on another item or clothing, more stuff or souvenirs, you create an opportunity for connection, growth and greater fulfillment.

3. Buy Quality

~Still saving for Le Creuset cookware, but when it happens, it will last!~

A large part of the mission of The Simply Luxurious Life is the idea that quality surpasses quantity on the path to creating a content and fulfilling life. Whether it reduces clutter, saves money in the long run or allows for dependable performance, when you purchase an item of quality, you have confidence that the car, tool, or item of clothing will do what it is supposed to do. In other words, it will perform at the expected level for a longer period of time and reduce your frustration, keep money that would have been spent on replacements in your pocket, as well as reduce the amount of clutter because you aren’t buying as often.

While it may take time to save up to buy a quality product, once you do purchase quality, you will be happy with your decision.

4. Buy Knowledge

Similar to buying experiences, buying knowledge, whether you find it in a book, in a classroom, or on a vacation to a new travel destination, greatly enhances the quality of your life, which in turn increases your happiness. When you have knowledge, you make better decisions which reduce stress, which allows you to be healthier and enjoy life more fully.

5. Invest in Yourself and Others

If handled properly, having more money allows for more money to be invested into retirement or placed in a savings account in case of emergencies. Knowing your financial future is taken care of allows for you to enjoy your present as well as enjoy a better night’s sleep which is needed to maintain good health.

Also, choosing to invest in others, whether you donate to a favorite charity, create a scholarship fund to award to a deserving graduate or save for your children’s future, knowing you are helping someone attain their own happiness is a tremendous happiness booster.  (Click here for more posts about money.)

6. Bring People Together

As discussed a few weeks ago, creating healthy and rewarding connections with others is a fantastic way to boost your health and your happiness.  While everyone will have differing preferences on the types of social scenarios that bring them the most joy, when you spend your money organizing a dinner party, a special date night or a grand gathering of friends and/or family, the memories and moments shared allow happiness to increase for the host as well as the guests.

7. Buy Good Health

Many of the points shared previously include an aspect of how they aid one’s health (by reducing stress, improving sleep, etc), but more specifically, when you can purchase quality food (not processed which is typically cheaper), have access to clean water, the means to buy something as simple as sunscreen or as grand and significant as health care, you improve the quality of your life, which reduces your worries, which ultimately increases your happiness and longevity.

8. Buy Now, Enjoy Later

Living in a world of credit where we purchase now and pay later actually can decrease long term happiness. But the good news is that the reverse can significantly increase our happiness. Buying now, knowing what you’ve purchased is paid for in full and looking forward to experiencing what you have bought for a certain duration, can increase your happiness.

For example – vacation airfare and accommodations. Upon making plans six months in advance, paying for certain big ticket items upfront, insures that you are indeed going to make the trip, and now you can spend the time in the interim dreaming and anticipating all that is to come. Now some may say, what if expectations are too high and you’re disappointed? Ultimately, the more research you do ahead of time, the more prepared you are for what to expect and how to make the most of the trip you’ve dreamt about.

So do yourself a favor, foster the excitement of that kid eagerly waiting for Santa to arrive by planning and paying ahead, so that you can enjoy the rewards and pleasure of what you’ve long anticipated.

9. Appreciate Simple Pleasures

If money is mishandled, the abundance while not making us less happy, won’t make us happier either. Why is that? As Dunn and Norton point out, “Abundance is the enemy of appreciation.”

When we know we have the means to enjoy a luxury item every single day, we become conditioned to take it for granted and not appreciate what our life may have been like before sans latte, fancy car, Louboutin heels, etc.

By reining in how often we afford ourselves the luxuries we used to thoroughly love to indulge in only occasionally – a cup of decadent hot chocolate from the nearby patisserie, homemade cookies, a spa pedicure or dinner at your favorite restaurant, we are again able to truly appreciate and enjoy them more fully.

Think about it. Seasonal fruit or flowers. Why is spring such a joyous season? Because the greenery, blooms and vegetation is something we’ve been living without for months. Why do loved ones love and appreciate each other even more after being away from each other? Because after not being able to enjoy their company at their discretion, they were able to appreciate the intimacy they so cherish. Why is each new season of Downton Abbey anticipated by more and more fans each subsequent year? Because the break between our last dose of drama at Highclere Castle is long enough for us to appreciate what we’ve been missing.

By making wise decisions about how we spend our money, we can directly affect how happy our lives are. I highly recommend reading Happy Money as they share more specific examples and evidence for their findings.

I would love to hear examples of how you have already experienced using your money in a way that increased your happiness no matter how much or how little you make. Please do share in the comments below or on Facebook (click here to begin the conversation).

Have a wonderful Monday!

Disclaimer: Articles featured on Oregon Report are the creation, responsibility and opinion of the authoring individual or organization which is featured at the top of every article.