We hear, so often, that “money can’t buy happiness.” But this might not entirely be true. Really, it’s more about how you spend your money. I recently watched an 11-minute TED video from Michael Norton. He talked about how people can actually feel better at life when they spend money on others.
Norton talked about social experiments related to spending money. He looked at the impact different spending habits have on happiness. Are you happier spending on yourself? Or on others? Here are some of the more interesting takeaways from the results of his efforts to determine how money can buy happiness:
- Those who spend money on themselves don’t see a change in attitude. They aren’t any happier, but they aren’t unhappy, either.
- Those who spend on others are happier.
- It doesn’t matter how much money is spent. Those who spent C$5 on others were just as happy as those who spent C$20 on others.
- It doesn’t matter what the money is spent on. Buying a gift for a loved one boosts happiness as much as helping a friend with a serious financial need.
I really found this interesting, since it seems to be the unselfish act of spending money on someone else actually boosts feelings of happiness.
What Do You Spend Your Money On?
One of the things I found most interesting was that those who spend money on themselves weren’t any less happy than they were before. That means that spending money on yourself is going to send you into some sort of sad spiral. (The story might be different if you spend until you’re in debt, though. But that’s more about about the fact that now you owe someone money, and your money isn’t your own anymore.) It’s possible to spend money on yourself and still feel good about it.
However, I find that in my own life, I am more satisfied when I spend money on what I feel is important to me. While I might not be less happy overall when I spend money on something that I don’t really value or care for, I still feel buyer’s remorse. And, after a while, resentment can build up. Instead, I try to focus on spending on things that I really enjoy, and that are important to me. My overall happiness might not be affected, but I feel a little more satisfied with my life when I take the time to really think about my purchases, and only make those that are actually important to me.
And I do like spending money on others. I feel good when I give to charity, and I like shopping for gifts for others. There is something that makes you feel good about helping others, as well as that feeling you get inside when you watch someone enjoying a gift you purchase for them. My husband gets very excited about buying cool toys for our son, and anticipates our son’s enjoyment of the toy. He loves that moment when our son unwraps the present.
Ultimately, it looks as though you can find happiness in spending money. What do you think? Do you feel happier when you spend money on others?