We all know the old adage “you can’t buy happiness.” And who doesn’t smirk when the news reports another study about wealthier people being no happier than poorer people. But, there’s just one problem with all that. We don’t want to believe it’s true. We think they’re just doing it wrong. If you had a million dollars you’d know how to make yourself happy, right?
Well, me too! There’s some PhD researchers that agree with us. They wrote a book about it, but it might not be what you think.
The book is Happy Money and it’s written by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. Liz is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Mike is an associate professor of marketing at Harvard Business School. These two researchers get their smirks by proving old adages wrong though data and science.
They break down how to buy happiness in five principals:
- Buy experiences
- Make it a treat
- Buy time
- Pay now, consume later
- Invest in others
Some of these ideas you may have come to understand already. Especially, if you are young or young at heart. For example, we know when we go on an amazing adventure in a foreign country, we don’t just enjoy that experience as we’re having it. We enjoy that experience for the rest of our lives as we share our stories and pictures with friends and reminisce about “that one time when…” You probably don’t do that about last Tuesday when you bought those fancy Italian shoes in a late night shopping binge.
Now I’m sure those shoes would make anyone happy, but imagine if you got those shoes while on vacation in Italy. Every time you wear them, you’d be reminded of how it unexpectedly rained and caused you to run into a nearby shoe store where this beautiful local pair of shoes were waiting for you. That’s how experience and a story add value to a thing. And, it all can make you happier time and time again.
Make It a Treat
We also know that the best things are best kept as treats. No surprise here. We know that having ice cream every day make that next scoop of ice cream less special than if you were looking forward to a weekly ice cream night. Making what’s special into something mundane strips away a certain amount of happiness.
The challenge here is looking at what you already do everyday and think, “how can I make this a treat?” It might be a mindset or it might be cutting back on a luxury. Take coffee for example. You could cut back on Starbucks and have homebrew most of the week so that your Starbucks coffee is that much better when you do have it. Ok, so you won’t give that up. You’re too busy to make it yourself. I get it. What if you stole five minutes from the next thing you’re doing to simply focus on that premium coffee and how rare it is for you to get five minutes to yourself in your busy day. No email, no Twitter, just you and coffee. Be present.
This one is can simply be explained as “outsource everything that doesn’t make you happy.” But, that’s only half of it. Most of us use technology to allow us to do more. We think faster will ultimately give us more time to spend with our family or doing that hobby we love. Now think back to the last week, when did technology free up time so you could spend more time with your family. It didn’t!? Shocking. You spent that saved time to do more work, didn’t you? I get it. You were on roll and focused on an endless list of to dos.
Try this instead, first treat your time like it’s the currency of the day. Imagine that you’re not trying to make more money by completing the next task faster, you’re trying to generate more time. And that time can be spent on something you actually want to do. In my case, that’s playing with my kid.
There’s one key to making this work, you have to have a finite task list. When it’s done, you get to play. OR, you set a timer. When it goes off, your done. I’ll be the first to tell you, this is impossible at first. Don’t give up. Your children or your guitar or whatever it is you’ve been meaning to get to all these years will thank you. AND, you’ll be happier.
Pay Now, Consume Later
You’ll like this one… or you’ll hate it. The idea here is if you can separate the cost from the thing itself, you won’t being experiencing buyer’s remorse once you have it and you won’t be comparing how happy it makes you with how much it cost you (as much). I understood this as a way to better manage disappoint by getting ahead of it.
This kind of logic says you’d be happier with a phone if you pre-ordered it and waited months for it. When it arrives you’d be much more thrilled than if you just bought it off the shelf, because in that very same moment you would’ve felt the loss of hundreds of dollars. Pre-ordering removes that loss from the moment of getting the thing so you can experience pure bliss while playing with it (until it breaks).
Invest in Others
The best for last. You know that feeling you get when you buy a that perfect gift for someone, you give it to them, they open it, they light up, and thank you and thank you and thank you. They love it! You love that you were able to give it to them. Everyone is happy. Even when you think about that moment weeks later, it makes you happy all over again. That’s the pleasure of giving.
Now imagine that the gift was medicine and it saved their daughter’s life. That’s investing in others. That’s the kind of happiness that makes you cry. THAT is what Goodable is all about.
Goodable Sells Happiness
You can buy happiness. Every product here at Goodable supports a cause or charity. Every purchase is an investment in others. We’re using capitalism as the catalyst to change the world. So get that thing (it’s really cool) and save the world while you’re at it. As a bonus, we’ve got that whole pay now, consume later principal going since you’re patient enough to wait for delivery.
In conclusion, Read Happy Money
The summary I gave doesn’t do this book justice. Every principal has loads of interesting facts and studies to support why it works. If you’re an employer, volunteer, parent, student, teacher, whatever… you’ll get so many ideas you won’t know where to start. If you’ve been looking to relight that fire in your life or your work or even your chores, this might be the place to find that spark. Worst case, you’ll enjoy it. There’s nothing to lose here.