One extremely important and interesting happiness question is the relationship between money and happiness.
On the question of whether money buys happiness, I believe the answer is: It depends.
It depends on the nature of your personality. (Do you have a passion for collecting art or for renting movies? Do you yearn to have your own horse or your own cat?)
It depends on how you spend your money. (Is your money buying cocaine or college? Are you splurging on a convenient gym or a dining room table?)
It depends on how much money you have relative to the people around you, and relative to your own experience. (Are you richer or poorer than most of your friends and family? do you have more or less than you did in the past?)
There are so many aspects to this issue, but it seems to me that because most people scoff (or pretend to scoff) at the idea that money can buy happiness, they don’t spend enough time thinking about how to spend money toward happiness.
Put aside the question of whether to spend money on stuff, or experiences, or health, etc. For now, just think about STUFF.
The fact is, sometimes just the mere possession of some STUFF does give you a big jolt of happiness. (What’s more, sometimes the mere purchase of some stuff gives you something that feels an awful lot like happiness, temporarily—a fact that warrants far greater examination, I think.)
Maybe this shouldn’t be true. But for many people, it is true.
The trick is to know how to spend your money wisely. Some purchases will give you great joy, others are a waste in terms of happiness bang for the buck.
My resolutions include “Think about what happiness money could buy,” “Make purchases that will further my goals—family, friends, work, etc.” and “Indulge in a modest splurge.”
So last week I did something that I’ve been meaning to do since the Big Girl was born. I called the famous children’s bookstore in New York City, Books of Wonder, and ordered the “Wizard’s Super Special.” This is the complete set of the fifteen Oz books by L. Frank Baum.
Now that I’ve admitted to myself my deep passion for children’s literature, I no longer pretend to be buying these books for my daughters. I’m buying them for ME.
Yesterday, they arrived in all their glory. They have a lovely unified design, hard-backs, with matching spines and heavy paper. Gorgeous covers with the original illustrations. Color illustrations inside. Fanciful border drawings. Different books have different special touches: the anniversary edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has gilded pages, one book has colored pages as the characters travel through the different colored lands of Oz, another has color used in interesting ways on the pages. (Aha, I see that I am very interested in the GRAPHIC DESIGN!) I thought I’d only read five or six of these books, but once I looked at them, I realized I had read and re-read all of them—but the library books weren’t nearly as nice as these books.
I haven’t even put them up on a shelf yet. I’ve left them in a big pile on the table, because I get a thrill of happiness each time I see them.
Now, happiness experts might argue that I’ll adapt to my purchase. Soon, I’ll be accustomed to owning these books, they’ll sit on a shelf and gather dust, and I’ll be no better off than I was before.
I disagree. Because I have a real passion for children’s literature, I feel confident that these will give me a boost every time I see them. After all, I have a big stack of the old, beat-up, beloved Cricket magazines I had as a child, and those still make me happy, too.
The secret—as in all happiness matters—is to know yourself, and to choose wisely.
One Last Thing
Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?
Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. I share ideas for being happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.
Dive into The Blog
More Posts For You
Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.
The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.