We see it all the time in self-help books: money can’t buy happiness. Behavioral scientists Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Dr. Michael Norton, authors of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, emphasize the idea that it’s not about how much money you make, but rather how you choose to spend it that makes a difference. Norton explains in his Ted Talk that people who have won the lottery shared their stories about how becoming rich made their lives take a turn for the worst.
A single mother of three, for instance, lived in an apartment and worked four jobs before she won the lottery. Initially, it seemed like a fairytale. She bought a house and a new wardrobe, cut down to working only one job, and invested the rest of the money. But eventually, she received unwanted phone calls from people who threatened or offered her marriage proposals. Her family members would also try to control the way she lived her life and used the money.
Society feeds people the idea that if you get a well-paying job, buy a beautiful house, fancy car, and the latest clothes, then you will live a happy life. But being able to afford all of those expenses doesn’t necessarily create a safety bubble free from conflict. We encourage you to tap into your money intuition and adapt a healthy perspective on the way you use it. Psych2Go shares with you 5 reasons why money can’t buy you happiness and 5 happier ways to spend it:
1. Buying too many material goods can make you unhappy. Instead, think about investing in more experiences.
According to Dunn and Norton, spending money on experiences provides more happiness than buying material goods because they make you feel more connected to others. Spending money on traveling with close loved ones or meaningful social events will help you feel more fulfilled than buying trendy clothes and accessories, so think twice before splurging on the next designer bag. The same applies to weddings.
Although weddings provide newly married couples an opportunity to share their love story with others, research done by two Emory University professors shows that over 3,000 individuals who chose to have highly expensive weddings were more likely to divorce than those who preferred to spend under $10,000 for their weddings. Rather than getting caught in buying picture perfect moments, focus more on authentic ways you can make good memories with close loved ones.
2. Buying your dream home is different from living your dream life within it.
Researchers conducted a study on German homeowners five years after they moved into their new houses, as well as on Ohio homeowners, and found that they were happy with their new homes. However, they were not necessarily happier with their lives. Owning a house has many benefits, such as having more space for yourself and friends and family when they come to visit, but it plays a small role in our happiness. Before buying a house, ask yourself why you want it. It’s important to focus on ways to utilize your home that personally makes you feel fulfilled, rather than just achieving a higher social status.
When I was little, I used to live in a small apartment with my parents before we moved into our new house. Although I had the luxury of having a whole room to myself, there are times where I still look back on the nights we all shared the same bedroom. Occasionally, I’d fall off the bed and sleep in a small corner next to the heater. When I’d open my eyes, my parents would still be sleeping on the mattress above me, and it gave me the incentive to climb back up into the warmth of their arms. Part of me misses how close I was to my parents before we all got used to occupying our own spaces.
3. You may become obsessed with making money that you don’t have time to actually use it.
Research has shown that wealthy individuals tend to spend their time on activities associated with high levels of stress and tension, such as shopping, working, and commuting. On the other hand, those who are obsessed with saving every penny forget to treat themselves every once in a while. It’s important to maintain a balance and meet somewhere in the middle. Rather than getting caught up on making or saving money, focus on making more time for yourself to enjoy doing activities and seeing people who make you happy. People often lose sight on making the most of their lives when they get too attached to money that they end up forgetting why they were making or saving it in the first place. Don’t fall into that trap and start investing your time more accordingly.
4. Buying things for yourself may feel temporarily rewarding. But sharing with others is an investment in your future.
Norton states in his Ted Talk that it doesn’t matter how much you spend on others. Whether you are buying someone a birthday gift or donating $10,000 to save someone’s life, you are still doing something selfless and meaningful for someone else. You may think that you don’t feel any different after you donate your old clothes to thrift stores or give money to fundraisers, which is why it’s important to see the process of how your money and efforts are helping others out.
Generally, I love getting people gifts and donating to causes whenever I get the chance. It’s not about what I get in return, but rather about how a small gesture of kindness can go a long way. People never forget the way you make them feel and it’s a truly humbling and freeing experience when I can take part in making someone happy.
5. Giving into instant gratification can result in instant unhappiness.
When you splurge all the time and buy yourself expensive goods, you become over-exposed that they no longer excite you anymore. Learn not to give into your impulses every once in a while and delay your instant gratification. This will help you appreciate the small joys in life. In addition, when you take time to think about what you’re spending your money on, it will allow you to make better judgment on what you need versus fleeting happiness.
How do you plan to your spend your money differently to live a happier life? Psych2Go would love to hear your thoughts! Please be sure to leave a comment down below!
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Berlinger, J. (2012, November 23). 8 Ways That Money Can Buy Happiness. Business Insider. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
Bloom, L., & Bloom, C. (2015, May 5). Research Proves Money Can’t Buy Happiness. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
How to Buy Happiness [Video file]. (2011, November). Retrieved February 6, 2018, from www.ted.com
Landau, E. (2011, January 7). Winning the Lottery: Does It Guarantee Happiness? CNN.com. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
Woodruff, M. (2013, July 25). 5 reasons Why Money Isn’t Making You Happy. Business Insider. Retrieved February 6, 2018.