Happy Money

In Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton explain the best ways to spend money to increase happiness, based on behavioral science. I really enjoyed it and have been trying to apply the lessons ever since I read it. Here are some I enjoyed:

Research shows that experiences provide more happiness than material goods in part because experiences are more likely to make us feel connected to others.

I’ve tried putting this into practice as an adult. I really value travel, will gladly save up for a trip, and never regret it. That said, it’s nice having a down jacket and experiencing not freezing to death walking to work.

We are happy with things, until we find out there are better things available.

Most people recognize this. The harder part is turning those feelings off. There’s always more. Always. I still struggle with this. Sure, this down jacket is warm, but they look warmer in the Canada Goose. And if I get that, then I’ll want the one with OVO stitched on it. And so on.

People who spend more of their money on leisure report significantly greater satisfaction with their lives.

It’s important to be deliberate about leisure and relaxation. Just like it’s good to schedule time for relaxing, it’s good to set aside money for leisure. It’s good to step back from the day to day stress and consider why you’re putting yourself through it in the first place.

You can probably afford some kind of leisure right now. And you can take take it a step further than a trip to a movie by following these guidlines:

The experience brings you together with other people, fostering a sense of social connection.

The experience makes a memorable story that you’ll enjoy retelling for years to come.

The experience is tightly linked to your sense of who you are or want to be.

The experience provides a unique opportunity, eluding easy comparison with other available options.

Pick experiences that are: shared, memorable, personal, and unique. (“Well I’ll never have the chance to do this again” leads to spending $20 more on odd things the further away you are from your comfort zones.)

By consistently asking yourself how a purchase will affect your time, your dominant mind-set should shift, pushing you toward happier choices.

Growing up, I never ever ever thought I’d pay to have my laundry done. I never did a thorough cost comparison or anything like that. It didn’t seem to be stupid. It just never crossed my mind that I’d need to do it. Or want to.

Then I moved to New York. And I found a sublet in Chelsea. The building’s basement seemed like there was a mouse army setting up a siege on the cockroaches on the other side of the wall. It happened to be where the washing machines were. I wanted to stay far far away from that.

That’s a little extreme, but even now in an apartment where things aren’t a horror movie, I’ve continued using drop off service. For probably $10 more than it would cost do it myself, I can buy two hours of my life back.