How to buy happiness

Everyone says you can’t buy happiness, and I am here to flash a study in your face that says you can.

The catch?

You can only buy happiness if you spend it on others, not yourself. 😉

“Just because money doesn’t buy happiness doesn’t mean money cannot buy happiness,” says Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. “People just might be using it wrong.”

Dunn and others are beginning to offer an intriguing explanation for the poor wealth-to-happiness exchange rate: The problem isn’t money, it’s us.

They performed an experiment in which volunteer test subjects were given a small windfall of $5 to $20. Some of the subjects, chosen at random, were told to spend it on a bill, an expense, or a gift for themselves.

The others were told to buy a gift for someone else or make a charitable donation.

Afterwards, the second group – the ones who had given the money away – reported being significantly happier than those who had spent the money on their own needs.

Dunn and Norton published their results in the journal Science in March 2008.

The lesson of their study, says Dunn, is clear. Money makes you most happy if you don’t spend it on yourself.

Read more here and the full article here.

If that isn’t enough….

I must admit I never made such an action for a pure stranger. I gave time as a volunteer for the less fortunate. I’ve donated many things, mostly clothes, at repeated times too. But I’ve never gave money to a stranger who seemed to need it (excluding spare change for homeless people met in the streets). It does probably feel good! Maybe I should try! 😉

However, as a mom, I do spend a lot for others than myself! I much prefer buying new pieces of clothes for them than for myself. I like seeing their expression when they realise I bought them something! On the other hand, I sure don’t want them to take it for granted. I’m not the type of mom who comes up with a weekly surprise. I think that has a dangerous twist too!

That also reminds me of a post I wrote about a year ago on Everyday Minimalist which said that happiness is found in experiences rather than things. This is another statement that shows money CAN buy happiness, maybe just not in the ways we traditionally meant it.


What About You? Do You Buy Happiness with Money?


About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.