How does money buy you happiness

You can't buy happiness (unless you spend your money on the following things)

Think you can't buy happiness? We'll check that again! Finally, research leads to the assumption that money can improve well-being up to a certain level. But, as Dee Marques finds out, happiness is largely influenced by how you spend your money.

The article was originally published in happiness magazine.

“You can't buy happiness”. How many times have you heard this? This old saying reflects the generally accepted belief that happiness is an attitude that cannot be changed by how much or how little money we have. However, sometimes we feel that this is not entirely true and that money and happiness can actually be linked.

Certainly we've all thought at some point that we'd be happier with a little more money in our pockets. When money is tight, it's only natural to think that a little more would make us feel better, less stressed, and happier overall.

In fact, the link between mental health and financial problems is well documented. If so, why shouldn't money in return make you happier?

What exactly are you supposed to believe now? Let's take a look at the research from this longstanding debate and uncover the link between money and happiness.

Happiness and Money: What Does Research Say?

According to a report by the Society for Psychology of the United Kingdom, financial problems are ranked eighth of the top 18 causes of stress in the UK. Similar results were recorded in many other countries, including the United States, Australia, and Hong Kong.


Happiness can hardly be bought. The exceptions are listed here.

On the other hand, 'financial wellbeing' is one of the main factors contributing to quality of life and general happiness. Financial well-being must therefore not be disregarded when trying to find out whether you can buy happiness or not.

Financial wellbeing means that we have enough money so that we don't have to worry about it affecting our relationships, health, and future plans. So it seems that the answer to "Can you buy happiness?" is “yes” at a certain level - when you have enough money. But how much is enough - and can financial wellbeing be quantified?

According to Nobel Prize winner and economist Angus Deaton, the benchmark can be set at $ 75,000 / year. In his research, Deaton found that below this level, stress and negative emotions were reported more frequently. Due to the different incomes around the world, this is of course not a fixed global figure, as it seems to vary from country to country. For example, it has been found that the amount needed for happiness is much higher in Australia and New Zealand, but significantly lower in Latin America.

Can you buy happiness? A question of balance and priorities

Although the exact "price of happiness" varies, most studies that attempt to answer the question "Can you buy happiness?" Can agree on one thing: Once our basic needs are met, the positive effects of money become less important. when balanced against the negative aspects.

Sure enough money can reduce financial anxiety, but research has also shown that people don't feel happier if they earn above these thresholds.

In fact, some studies suggest that an annual income greater than $ 95,000 is related to lower life satisfaction. This may be because people set themselves new material goals the more money they earn. Once these material goals are met, maintaining a more costly lifestyle can lead into a spiral of dissatisfaction (known as the hedonistic adaptation).


Stress at work: Money can't make you happy if the job is stressful.Lyashenko Egor / shutterstock.com

In addition, in order to earn more money, you may have to live with greater professional responsibility and a poorer work-life balance. It can mean working longer hours, spending more time in the office, and spending less time with family and friends. As a result, it leads to less satisfaction and worsens the happiness-to-money balance.

So the important thing we can learn from this is being aware of the fine line between having enough and overconsuming. Excessive consumption can never be satisfied and ultimately make us unhappy.

So when can you buy happiness?

Having more money than we need doesn't necessarily make us happier. But if we use it to gain experience and do meaningful things, it could help with that. In fact, science shows that happiness is not about how much money you have, but how you use it.

To find the balance between money and happiness, it is important to use money in a way that leads to continued satisfaction. For example, going on a shopping spree provides only a brief feeling of happiness (which soon wears off), but investing in experiences can create memories - and happiness - that will last forever.

Here are three suggestions on how to buy happiness to a certain extent:

1) Altruism and happiness

Studies show a strong link between altruism and happiness. Some of the richest people in the world, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, donate most of their fortune because this drive helps them find meaning.

However, you don't have to be a billionaire to experience this: you can perform gestures that involve small amounts of money. For example, you can buy a coffee for the person in line behind you, or set up a monthly direct debit for a preferred charity.

Being altruistic in general is a great thing: the benefits of kindness are huge and proven.

2) Invest in experience

In many cultures and societies, material possessions still have a high priority. But "things" get broken, lost or become uninteresting after a while. Experiences, on the other hand, create memories that will stay with you forever.

You can travel, take a cooking class, find a hobby that you are passionate about, or just visit your own city as a tourist. Whatever you enjoy, do it. In fact, it has been proven that a lifestyle in which one does not strive for materialistic things, but instead pursues a non-materialistic approach, is a step towards increasing satisfaction.


Just get out of here: Money that is spent on experiences, such as here on travel, brings happiness

3) buy your time

Use money to buy yourself extra time. That way, you'll have more time to do things that make you happy. If the housework is too time-consuming and you can afford it, hire a housekeeper. If you need long hours doing your taxes or managing your finances, give that work to a tax advisor. If you and your partner are always exhausted because of the children, you can spend something on a babysitter once a week and gain valuable time together. It is important not to use the time gained for further work, but to do things that give you pleasure!

And you don't have to be rich to benefit from these suggestions. A study of 6,000 people in multiple countries showed that those who spent money on time-saving tasks had higher life satisfaction levels regardless of their income class. The message here is that money can be spent not only on things that you enjoy, but also on avoiding things that you do not enjoy doing.


Time is money: buy yourself time - that makes you happy

Happiness and money: wealth influences our perception

The last thing to consider when examining the relationship between happiness and income is that happiness can mean different things to different people. It is therefore important that you think about what makes you personally happy.

Studies show that happiness is a complex emotion that can be experienced as a result of other positive feelings. According to a study, for example, wealthy people associate happiness with pride, a sense of achievement and the feeling of having achieved something. Conversely, less wealthy people are more likely to experience happiness in connection with feelings such as compassion and love.

Whatever happiness means to you, don't be afraid to change something in order to find it. Even if such changes can be frightening at first. For some people, happiness has meant quitting their high paying corporate jobs to pursue their calling. For others, it may mean finding a less demanding job or working from home a few days a week, even if it means earning less.

You can't buy happiness: a brief summary

To sum it up - it seems clear that there is a relationship between money and happiness and between happiness and income, but it is not always a cause and effect situation. While money is important, it is far from the only contributing factor to happiness.

When trying to answer the question, “Can you buy happiness?” It is useful to rethink our conception of happiness, avoid comparisons with others, and find out what happiness means to me personally.

In our pursuit of happiness, it also makes sense to focus on meeting our needs. To create a vault of experience and memories instead of a life full of material possessions. But we should try not to forget to be appreciative and grateful for what we have. ●

Cover picture: Dean Drobot / shutterstock.com

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Written by Dee Marques

Dee is a graduate of social sciences and has a keen interest in languages, communication and personal development strategies. She loves to exercise, to be in nature and to discover warm and sunny places where she can escape from winter.