“l’ll be happy when I get the pay rise” or “I’ll be happy when I get a ………” Just insert whatever the word is for you.
Why do so many of us wait to be happy? What is wrong with being happy right now? And, why do we look to money to make us happy?
There is no denying the fact that if you live in a situation where you don’t have enough money to fulfill your basic needs of life like food, clothing and shelter, then the answer is YES, more money will make me happier. It will also make you healthier and less stressed.
So, let’s make the assumption that you are earning sufficient to meet the basic needs and a few of the extras that are nice to have. Which according to the 2010 Princeton research is $75,000, above that you may feel more satisfied with your life, but not necessarily any happier.
What are three things you can do right now to improve your money happiness?
1. Stop having the “I’ll be happy when….” conversations with yourself.
All you are doing is putting off being happy now and waiting for some future date when something happens over which we may have no control.
Take some time to look around you. Who is in your life that makes you happy right now? Friends? Family? What fun things have you done that have brought a smile to your face?
Take pride in your accomplishments to date. Go for a walk in the park/bush, watch the sunrise. Tell your partner or children that you love them. Start looking inside yourself rather than externally for your happiness.
If you are struggling to find people and places that make you happy. Start a gratitude diary.
Write down one thing every day that you are grateful for. You’ll soon find you have plenty of reasons to be happy with your life, just as it is.
2. Go to your Facebook page, or your computer (even a photo album!) and look at your photos.
Does this bring a smile to your face?
The key point here is: Spend your money on experiences, not just ‘stuff’. Dr Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist from Cornell University, has been studying the link between money and happiness for several decades and after four studies still comes to the conclusion: “Happiness is derived from experiences, not things.”
“We buy things to make us happy and we succeed – but only for a little while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
While we think buying a new car or TV will make us happy and it will for a while. Then the car becomes part of our routine and we start to search for new ways of finding happiness.
But experiences, on the other hand, linger in our memory. Something we see or hear will trigger a fond memory of a trip somewhere and that experience become part of our identity. We have animated conversations with friends who have visited the same places we have, we like to compare notes about shows we have been to, or recommend a good movie to others.
Dr Gilovich continues, “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are a part of you. We’re the sum total of our experiences.”
Take a little time to reflect on the past few weeks and answer this question for yourself: What made you happier, stuff or experiences? This will give you a very good guide into how you want to spend your money in the future.
So, don’t just keep a list of ‘stuff’ you would love to own. Keep another list of all the places you would like to see and things you would like to do.
Before you spend your hard-earned cash, have a look at both lists and ask yourself this question, “right now which will make me happier, stuff or experiences?”
3. Buy a gift for a loved one, or make a donation to a charity.
This may sound a little counter intuitive, particularly if money is tight. The book, ‘Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending‘ (Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton) has this to say, “New research demonstrates that spending money on others provides a bigger happiness boost than spending money on yourself.”
What is even more interesting, it this applies to a very broad range of circumstances from a university student buying a scarf for Mum, to a Ugandan woman buying malaria medication for a friend. “Investing in others can make individuals feel healthier and wealthier” Dunn says.
Who do you know that could do with a bit of a helping hand or cheering up? Maybe you could pay for someone to mow your elderly neighbour’s lawn. Buy a scarf for Mum. Help someone out in the supermarket who is putting items back because they don’t quite have enough money to purchase what that need. How does that make you feel?
And here is a bonus one.
Use your Money to buy time.
Once time is gone we can never get it back. Not spending enough time with family and friends and doing things that make us happy is something we hear a lot when working with clients.
So why not pay someone to mow your lawns, clean your house, to free you up to use the time in pursuits that make you happy. There is a caveat here, you need to have the surplus money to outsource these tasks, or you are just adding more stress to your life.
Ask yourself this question. What can I purchase/outsource that will change the way I use my time to add to my happiness?
While money does smooth the road, true happiness is more likely to be found in a sunny afternoon spent with your children, a romantic picnic with your spouse or a good catch up with a close friend. If you’re able to invest time in making these things a priority, it’s far more likely that you’ll feel satisfied with your life in general.
It comes down to this, it really doesn’t matter how much we earn, or who we are. It’s all about how we think about money. How we align money to our core values, who we choose to share our money with and how we choose to spend it that will determine how much of it we need to make us happy.
Love your money happiness.