There are some things we’re told all the way through life which just don’t make sense. Sayings that people love to recycle without ever really thinking about them. That money can’t buy happiness is right up there on the list.
I’m not convinced.
Boating people like to joke about the two best days of your life being the day you bought it, and the day you sell it. Well they sound like two pretty damn great days, which 99 per cent of us will sadly never experience because buying a boat needs a whole lot of moula.
Firstly, let me ask this: does not having money ever cause unhappiness? Absolutely it does. Money problems are the number one cause of marital problems and ultimately divorce. In fact research shows that 27% of the time, a split is due to financial arguments.
Plus it’s the biggest factor in keeping people awake at night. If you can get through a sleepless night of anxiety and still be a happy person the next day, then you need to be researched by some scientists because that is not normal.
Try asking anyone battling to get by with a household budget that’s bursting at the seams whether not having money causes them issues.
It’s about experiences, not possessions
Guess what? Experiences aren’t free. Henry David Thoreau said that “wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” But if I want to fully experience life, I’m going to need a whole lot of plane tickets, a private islands somewhere in the Bahamas and a nice villa with bathtubs full of caviar, thanks.
Keep in mind that Thoreau embraced his voluntary poverty by removing himself from civilisation altogether, so for us who don’t feel like going full “Into the Wild” and prefer to stay amongst our clan, we’ll have to keep battling our way to the top of the financial food chain.
Some research from Harvard – that very expensive college which probably makes its students pretty happy (or at least their parents) – says that money can buy happiness, but there’s a catch. Real happiness will come when the money is spent in the right way. For example, spending on experiences results in a much higher level of happiness than material goods.
This is because we tend to adapt to physical things, no matter how excited we are about buying them, whereas the psychological benefits of an experience ( aka. the memory) are much stronger and longer lasting.
Spending on other people
Another of the “right ways” to spend money happily is not even for yourself! A few years ago, researchers handed students at the University of British Columbia a $5 or $20 note, and were asked to spend the cash on themselves or others by the end of the day. And surprise surprise, those who spent it on others – even if it was only $5 – felt happier.
Another study asked employees about their general happiness levels before and after receiving their annual bonus. And no matter what size the bonus was, employees who spent more of their bonus money on others reported greater general happiness levels than those who spent more of it on themselves.
If you’re going to have money and want it to make you happy, you’ve got to approach it a certain way. Whether it’s being a generous friend, donating to charity or having the freedom to volunteer, having money and spending it on others has great emotional rewards and sends that happiness increasing.
It’s important to remember that happiness does not increase relative to money; rich people won’t double their happiness if their income jumped from $1 million to $2 million.
What are the best moments of your day?
Think about some of the best moments you get on a day to day or week to week basis. Does it include when your online shopping delivery turns up at your door? How about a delicious budget-breaking meal at a way-too-expensive restaurant?
Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the best part of your week is standing in the supermarket aisles calculating which tin of sweet corn is cheapest, or waiting in line for the bus to work, or maybe it’s hanging up the underwear instead of throwing it in the dryer to save on the electricity bill. If that’s you, then congratulations. You are blessed with an ability to be content with little, which should probably everyone’s goal rather than striving for a happiness that is just way too hard to reach.