H is for Happy Money

UnknownI think that Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, is the first (and perhaps only) non-fiction book to make the list.  I say “perhaps only” because I don’t have all my posts written yet, and there are one or two that are in competition for a letter slot.

The Haunting of Hill House lost to Happy Money in this case.  Sorry, Shirley Jackson.

Anyway, back to the point.

I’m a bit… frugal.  I buy a lot of my clothing at Goodwill, and feel that secondhand stuff is almost always as good (or better than) new.  Maybe that’s a legacy from my grandparents, who sold antiques and reproductions at flea markets.  (And my uncle, who currently runs Holly Hill Antiques… hey, it’s another H!)

Pretty much the only things I spend money on are books and notebooks.  I really love notebooks.  And pens.  Oh, and I love my laptop, but that’s not really something I regularly spend money on.  Seeing a theme yet?

Anyway, in Happy Money, the authors call on research that disputes the age-old claim that money can’t buy happiness.  Actually, it can.  But not if you buy stuff with your money.  Cars, houses, furniture, etc. won’t buy happiness.

In order to purchase happiness, one must buy experiences.  Those experiences depend on what each individual likes.  For me, I love any experience that involves going somewhere and seeing something new.  Bonus points if it’s something natural.

Because I’m frugal, I used to feel at least somewhat guilty about spending money on vacations or for consumable experiences, like concerts.  But after reading this book, I realized that the happiness I got from these experiences was an investment in my future.

If an experience has the ability to absorb all my attention, to transport me, to enrapture me, then it’s a good value.  I recently saw David Gilmour in concert.  It was relatively expensive, traveling to Los Angeles to see him at the Hollywood Bowl.  (He wasn’t playing locally.)

It was a show unlike any I’ve seen before, and live music is always better than pre-recorded music.  The Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor venue, and the music filled the air.  People sang along with songs, the drunk guys behind us bumped into us every 37 seconds and spilled beer on my backpack, and the electricity made my heart race.

I’ll never forget it.

There are a lot of things that are needs, and a lot of things that are wants.  In my opinion, experiences fall somewhere in between those two things.  Because experiencing things, both positive and negative, are what living is all about.

Maybe that’s why I love to read so much.  Each book is a little vacation, a new experience, a different way of seeing the world.  And that, my friends, is priceless.

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”
-Dale Carnegie

17 comments on “H is for Happy Money

  1. Very well said. (And I’d love to see David Gilmour in concert.)

  2. Megan Morgan says:

    I’ve heard about this too, that experiences make you happier than objects. I have to agree. Some of my best memories are experiences that I bought!

  3. I.L. Wolf says:

    I definitely believe money can buy happiness, because at the very least it can buy peace of mind. And yes, who wouldn’t love the freedom for all the experiences you want?! For me, that would be travel.

  4. Pempi says:

    So much of what you posted here made total sense to me 🙂 I’m quite frugal but I love to travel and experience things and memories will stay with you forever! I’ll be back for more and lovely to meet you through the Challenge.
    A Stormy’s Sidekick
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

  5. Mary Lasher says:

    I heard the best saying recently… “I would rather collect experiences, rather than things”. Your post reminded me of that. And I am starting to do this… and it feels good!


  6. Tarkabarka says:

    Amen to that! I would much rather spend on experiences than objects, and so far, it has proven to be the best thing to do 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary

  7. Janet Miles says:

    I already have tickets to five concerts and I plan on going to at least four more this year so I’d say I’m spending A LOT of happy money! Thanks for posting this so I know I am doing it for my health.

  8. My mantra is buy fun… not stuff!

  9. Cynthia says:

    The thing about buying stuff is you have to find places to store and keep them. With experiences, you can hold onto the memories in your head.

  10. I love this approach and feel it is spot on. I have always been frugal. I always thought spending money on a vacation, travel, and even concerts was wasted money…nothing to show for it. At the age of 49, I sold everything and moved to Ecuador, needing to apply for a passport to get here. I was SO wrong about the value of experience and how much happiness that brings you. I sure wish I had done the first 49 years differently, but am glad I’ve done what I’ve done and learned from it. Maybe my son will learn from it too.
    Visiting the A to Z!
    @ScarlettBraden from
    Frankly Scarlett

  11. Margaret says:

    I wish I was a little more frugal!
    That concert would have been ruined for me because of the drunk guy…glad it didn’t seem to mar your memory of it.

    • doreeweller says:

      I don’t sweat stuff like that. I used to, but then I realized that I could be annoyed by it or amused by it, but either way, the guy would just do what he was doing.

  12. […] H is for Happy Money– Money can buy happiness, depending on how you spend it. […]

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