4 ways spending money increases happiness
We like to shop. We buy a wide variety of things including cars, electronics, clothes, knick-knacks, and more. In fact, shopping has become a quintessential part of what it means to be an American. Unfortunately, the increase in shopping results in severe negative consequences. In the process of creating, manufacturing, and selling goods, a number of natural resources are depleted, workers health and well-being is often compromised, and many of these goods eventually end up in landfills. Despite the negative consequences, people still shop… a lot. This begs the question:
Why do people shop so much?
As implied by the saying “retail therapy,” there is a popular belief that shopping makes us feel good. It is easy to imagine that buying a new car would increase excitement, buying a new outfit would increase happiness, or buying a cool toy would lead to joy. But does shopping actually increase happiness? Well, it depends on what we buy.
According to my good friend and colleague at The University of Georgia, Professor Matt Goren, we can spend money strategically on expenses that actually improve our quality of life while spending less on things that don’t provide so much “bang for their buck.”
We know that meeting minimum needs is essential for happiness. This goes for needs—such as rent and food—as well as needs such as emergency expenses. When the car breaks down or you have to get a tooth pulled, suddenly there is an unexpected - and often very costly - expense. If you have adequately saved, you can avoid this stressful event, and the negative emotions associated with it. But many people pay a high mortgage to live in a nice house, or pay a hefty car payment to drive a nice car. We think these things are essential for a high quality of life, but we quickly get accustomed to the lifestyle and stop getting a happiness boost from it. Once the allure of the big house or nice car wears off, these things do not actually make us any happier day to day than we would have been without them. In fact, if buying the big house results in a longer commute to work, we will likely end up less happy despite the increased spending.
The same can be said for other fixed expenses, such as TV and pizza delivery. Once we habituate to certain perks, they stop making us happier - yet the expense remains. We are truly paying for nothing, as far as our happiness is concerned. And, with the increased strain on our budget, we may actually be worse off.
By spending money on the right things, we can increase our happiness.
Below, we discuss the four ways to spend money to increase happiness.
1. Reduce spending on needs
Start keeping your eyes open for savings opportunities. Here are some other tips to get you started.
2. Be strategic about saving for emergencies
3. Try these tricks to get the most out of your spending
4. Spend more money on what matters
In this activity, you clarify what happiness means to you.
In this activity, you learn to prioritize positive activities.
In this activity, you work on your growth mindset to generate healthy beliefs about happiness.
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