You probably have heard of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Great Gatsby. Aside from having cast Leonardo DiCaprio as the leading man, these movies have a second underlying message: they revolve around an extremely wealthy man spending his fortune on an ever-growing pile of possessions. In spite of having all they could wish for, the protagonists in these films both face tragic endings. As such, these movies illustrate that money does not buy happiness. At least, not if you spend it in the wrong way. In this post, we will discuss three of the ways spending money that can give a boost to your level of happiness.
Spend money on others If you think you can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.”, said Michael Norton during his TED talk about money and happiness at TEDxCambridge. Together with a group of researchers, he investigated whether the way we spend money influences our level of happiness. The results of the study were remarkable: in nearly every country in the world, spending money on others leads to an increased feeling of happiness, while spending money on oneself does not affect the level of happiness at all. Even if participants spent only five dollars buying something for someone else, this significantly increased their feeling of happiness. So, next time you’re getting a coffee, maybe consider getting one for a friend as well. You might be feeling instantly happier afterwards.
Buy experiences instead of things Another way in which spending money can promote happiness is if you spend it on experiences instead of material goods. This might seem counterintuitive: most people consider acquiring new possessions to be a better use of their money than going on adventures. However, it has been found that people felt happier if they spent their money on experiences. This has to do with the so-called Easterlin paradox, which states that money leads to happiness if it is used to meet basic needs. However, when all our basic needs are met, using money to buy new things does little to improve our happiness. Experiences, on the other hand, do give a boost to your happiness, even when your basic needs have been met. Rather than buying another jacket or a pair of shoes you don’t really need, invest in things such as visiting a museum or even a short weekend away.
Buy free time The third and final way in which you can use money is by buying time. In current Western society, most people are almost always working or on the go, leaving little time to relax and to spend with friends and family. In this context, a study found that using money to outsource chores increased individuals’ feeling of happiness. Namely, this way of spending money freed up participants’ agendas, which left them with more free time to spend any way they wanted. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should be hiring a house cleaner or ordering food every day if your budget does not allow for it. However, little changes can already make a huge difference. For example, in a busy week you might decide to have your groceries delivered instead of going to the store. Many supermarkets even have deals where delivery is free under certain conditions. With these kinds of little tweaks, you can free up some time for activities you enjoy doing, which will leave you a lot happier.
So, next time you are about to spend money on a material thing you think you need, maybe think twice before actually buying it. Are you getting a cookie in the canteen? Consider getting one for a friend as well. And a trip to a museum might leave you happier than buying another pair of jeans. These things might sound silly, but they are worth giving a shot! Give it a try, and you might be surprised by an instant boost in your level of happiness.