4 Ways to Use Your Money to Buy a Little More Happiness

by Miranda Marquit · 9 comments

how to buy happiness

We’ve all heard that “money can’t buy happiness,” and by now many of us are aware of a recent study that showed that, when you earn more than $75,000 a year your levels of happiness don’t increase very much.

While you probably won’t find lasting happiness based entirely on how much money you manage to amass, the way you spend your money can contribute a great deal to the amount of happiness and enjoyment you get out of life.

Here are 4 ways you can use your money to get a little more out of life:

how to buy happiness1. Spend it on what YOU like best.

So many of us spend money to get things meant to impress others. The neighbors have a 55″ TV, so you figure you ought to have one as well — even though you don’t watch a lot of TV. A lot of dissatisfaction in life comes from spending on things that you don’t really feel are important. Instead, examine your values and financial priorities, and then spend money on what YOU like. Forget about what others will think of that trashy novel. If it’s your guilty pleasure, and you really enjoy it for a relaxing escape from every day life, it’s not a waste of money.

2. Give it away.

Interestingly, a study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that people who spend money on others are happier than those who only spend money on themselves. Giving to charity, helping friends and family, and other spending that helps you feel as though you are making a positive contribution actually triggers activity in areas of your brain associated with receiving rewards. So, you can use your money for good — and enjoy a little more happiness in your life.

3. Focus on experiences.

While this isn’t always true, many people find that they are happier in their spending if they can use their money to enjoy experiences. This really resonates with me, since I am an “experience” person. While buying things can give you a thrill because it’s something new, pretty soon that object becomes a regular part of life, fading into the background. An experience, though, is always extraordinary. You can look back on your three-day getaway to the mountains and feel a little jolt of happiness — even years later. This is because you went outside your day-to-day experience. A trip to a Yankees game rarely becomes commonplace for most of us. Being able to spend your money to create these great memories gives you something to look back on, and creates a little bit of happiness each time.

4. Indulge in small pleasures regularly.

Instead of always scrimping and saving for that one big thing, consider indulging in smaller things regularly. Once you have that big thing, the newness and excitement of it starts to wear off as it slowly becomes part of the everyday landscape. A small indulgence regularly, though, always becomes something interesting to look forward to. As long as it’s affordable, it provides you with something new regularly. A trip to the movies, a new book, or an ice cream cone can be a fun way to add variety and spice to your life — without costing a lot.

How do you use money to add more enjoyment to your life?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • ricky nombres says:

    I like truth or dare or pictionary or 21 questions or trivial pursuit. I’m unlucky in cards so far..so lucky in love. I’m going to try more journaling, journalism, and sketching.

  • ricky nombres says:

    My dad reminded me I used to be a hug beggar in school. I have to find out how to get a free massage from a neighbor. Encounter groups were fun for free by a man in my hometown. He had 1-10 people visit his home and who know what would happen. Crazy really. He was a quadriplegic.

  • Robert says:

    I think giving gives you so much more in return. I also agree that saving a long time for one big thing can end up being disappointing in the end. Smaller things that will bring you joy can mean a lot.

  • Tyler S. says:

    To go along with #1, I think it’s import to put a little extra money into what you are going to spend large amounts of time with, whether it’s your hobby or your job. Also, giving money to worthwhile causes is definitely satisfying!

    People say money can’t buy happiness, but money can buy jet skis, and I’d like you see you not smile when you’re on a jet ski! 🙂

  • Jean says:

    Very good point about not needing to keep up with the joneses, as the saying goes. Sometimes when we see a neighbor or friend with a new object of desire, we are immediately tempted to get one for ourselves but we need to take a moment and think about whether we actually need it or would we just be acting on a temporary whim brought about by envy?


  • JOSEPH says:

    The problem with most people is their inability to realize that saving is not putting away huge sums of money. It starts with a little and grows as does your income. When I started working I joined a credit union with a small amount. When I got a raise, it was split, half into savings, the other to raise our lifestyle. I “never” reached the $75,000 yearly salary amount, best for me was maybe, $65,000 but i was an ant. Stop buying useless crap, iPads, iPhones, 55 inch tv’s, retro sneakers and the like. They don’t make you happy. Piece of mind does.

  • MoneyPerk says:

    Speaking with no experience in terms of buying it; Goals are something to be made when someone makes more money. They need to know what they will do with the money before they get it. So I think it is settled that it is possible that money can buy happiness, if used for the right purposes.

  • Maria@moneyprinciple says:

    I find the findings of this study rather dubious; someone said: ‘If you think that money can’t buy you happiness you don’t know where to go shopping’. Which brings me to this post: thank you. It perfectly expresses what I have been wondering about for some time. I am particularly keen on ‘spending on others’ and on ‘buying experience’ rather than stuff.

  • MLISunderstanding says:

    The thing is, until I get to that $75,000 mark, I’m going to feel like more money would improve my life! 😀

    If I were making that much more each year, I would be happier because I would feel more secure. I could pay cash for my grad school tuition (instead of taking federal loans and saving month-by-month to pay them back in full at the end of the interest-free period). My partner and I could move to an apartment without a housemate, and our down payment fund would grow more quickly. I could contribute more to retirement savings. Yes, in some ways that’s lifestyle inflation, but only to what I’d consider a comfortable level. Obviously I’m living on my current income just fine now (and saving or donating 50% in 2012), but the extra boost in security would make for a jump in well-being.

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