Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Buying more happiness

Smart Money has an interesting article up about buying more happiness.  The article highlights eight swaps or free ways to use your money better to improve you happiness most of which are profiled in a research study from academic researchers. I feel like this sort of information is applicable to everyone, who doesn't want to be happier? But I'm especially interested since I'm looking at a tightened budget over the next few years but want to maintain (or improve!) my current level of happiness. Here's a synopsis and my comments:
  1. Experiences not stuff - "Subjects overwhelmingly reported that they derived more happiness from things they did than things they own."  SM specifically recommends a vacation over a new car.  This one has been all over the news and blogs recently, fueled by this type of research and especially focuses on travel. I'm no travel fiend but I do appreciate the happy memories of a day at the beach or learning something new with my SO. 
  2. Help others - Altruism and volunteering are classic feel-good activities that are no surprise here but are still often overlooked.
  3. Focus on small purchases -I completely agree with this approach.  Two small 15 cent chocolates from the store down the street can make me very happy but a new outfit at $150 does not make me a thousand times happier.  Similarly a new car would not make me 100,000 times happier.  I definitely try to think as small as possible when trying to buy some happiness for myself and almost always I don't feel deprived, I feel really excited about my treat.
  4. Go easy on insurance - This fails to really look at the potential happiness downside.  While people may adapt just as easily to negative things as positive ones as the article claims, I am skeptical when it comes to losing your home, health or other major financial catastrophe.  However, getting rid of the laptop warranty as in their example seems pretty reasonable especially if you can self insure.
  5.  Save and pay cash - Another tactic that I employ and agree with.  Anticipation is really at least half the fun and paying cash means happiness now won't reduce happiness later. Similarly, reliving what made you happy is another free way to get more out of your purchase.  SO and I often take these walks down memory lane, "Do you remember that time we...." and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  6. Think it through - Basically this approach was to think through the down sides before assuming a purchase would make you happy.  This only seems like the normal, prudent thing to do before any purchase, but is especially important for a highly anticipated one.
  7. Don't shop too carefully - Allowing what should have been a happy moment to become a stressful one can often be a result of trying to hard to optimize the experience or purchase. I wrestle with this sometimes and striking a balance, while sometimes difficult, is crucial to happiness.
  8. Repeat - SM wisely points out that we all have a track record of what makes us happy and that we can use that data to be happier in the future. Knowing yourself is a big advantage and one I'm working on.
How do you buy happiness?

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