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Happy Money

I’m not quite sure how I ended up getting this book from the library….maybe one of you suggested it? Or maybe I got a PR email about it and decided to get the book from the library instead of getting a review copy.

happy money

At any rate, after I picked it, I managed to read it in only a few days (which is the sign of a really interesting book!)

Basically, Happy Money is about spending money in ways that bring about the most happiness, based on all the latest research on the topic (and there’s a lot, surprisingly enough!)

While I don’t exactly think that my main goal in life should be pursuing happiness, I do think it’s wise to consider how fulfilling different types of spending are, just like it’s wise to think about how fulfilling different types of leisure activities are.

There are five basic principles of happy money, some surprising and some not.

One that stuck out to me: Make it a Treat.

Remember how I was recently realizing how much more I enjoy something if it doesn’t happen too often? Well, apparently my experience is common, because research shows that people do indeed derive greater happiness from things that happen occasionally.

Which means that a $5 gourmet coffee drink can be a really wise use of money (happiness-wise) if you buy one once a week, but not so much if you buy one every day.

Another principle is that buying experiences tends to make people happier than buying stuff (the exception being if the stuff in question allows you to have an experience. Camping gear comes to mind.)

And interestingly enough, experiences tend to keep on bringing us joy (through happy memories) even after the experience is over, whereas our satisfaction with the stuff we buy tends to decrease over time.

While I do see the truth in this, I can definitely think of some instances where a material goods purchase has continue to make me happy. For instance, my camera, which I’ve used almost every day since bought it, brings me a lot of happiness, even though it’s been quite a few years since I purchased it. But maybe my continuing joy is due to the fact that the camera gives me the experience of taking pictures, which makes it count more as an experience than a thing.

Or as another example, we recently replaced our super-duper uncomfortable futon with a leather sofa, and every time I sit down, I still expect to hit a cushion that barely hides the metal bars beneath. And when I sink into a cushy seat instead, what I feel is most certainly happiness.

Several of the other principles are pretty easy for me to follow (like Pay Now, Consume Later, which says that we enjoy things more when we have to wait for them, and that paying after we’ve consumed brings unhappiness. Hello, credit card debt.), but one is a bit of a sticking point for me: Buy Time.

I am not very good at paying for time. I think part of this stems from many, many years of not having any wiggle room in my budget, and part of it is just my frugal nature. I hate to pay someone to do something that I could theoretically do myself.


I can definitely see how buying time can increase happiness. For instance, we needed a new sidewalk and steps this summer since our old ones were cracking and falling apart. An experienced friend of Mr. FG’s offered to help him DIY the project, but it would have taken at least three weekends to do. We ended up hiring someone to do it, and in a single day, the work was done.

That was definitely a happy feeling, especially when compared to the idea of three+ weekends of work.

On the other hand, that project kind of depleted our home improvement fund, so we can’t afford to buy time like that very often.


I could say a lot more about this book, but I’ll stop here and just say that if you’re interested in mindful spending (and you probably are, since you’re here!), you should give this a read. It’s got lots of food for thought and it’s not your typical dry financial book.

(Your library probably has a copy, and if not, you can snag a copy on or Amazon, where you can get an ebook version.)


Joshua’s 365 post: Black Clouds and Silver Linings

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Hope :)

Monday 7th of October 2013

Oooh! This book sounds like it's right up my alley. I'll hop over to my library website as soon as I hit Submit to see whether a copy's available. I love books where economics and psychology intersect! Thanks for the recommendation!


Tuesday 8th of October 2013

That's exactly what I do when I see a book to the library website!


Monday 7th of October 2013

On paying for time. We found out somethings are easier for us to do than others. We have replaced a water heater before but it took lots of time, a whole weekend at least. First we had to shop for it, then bring it home. Get the old one emptied and out of the house, then take it to the dump. Last time we bought one we called our plumber, told them what we wanted. They brought the heater, installed it and took the old one away. It took them a couple of hours and only cost around $100 more. I thought that was money well spent. It not only saved us lots of time and trouble but they are a great family owned company who do good work.

The first time money was tight, the second time I was happy I had the extra money and surprised that it didn't cost as much as I thought it would.


Monday 7th of October 2013

I just read an article about this:

Liz B.

Monday 7th of October 2013

This sounds like something I'd like to read. My husband and I try to balance out the time vs money issue; typically, we try and DIY what we can......however, earlier this year he found a deal on interior house painting that was more than 50% off, and covered painting our living room/family room/kitchen (open floor plan), up the stairwell and upstairs small hallway. We've lived in our current home for 6 1/2 years, and never painted, so we were living with cheap contractor's paint on the walls, which is not meant for long term wear. It now looks fresh and clean, and you can clean the walls as needed. It definitely increased my happiness level - I didn't have to take time off work, I dind't have to DO the work, and our house looks so much better:-) Someone else might choose to spend their money differently, but with both of us working full time outside the home and a preschooler to take care of, it would've been a loooong time before we painted it ourselves.


Monday 7th of October 2013

Sounds like a good book. Just added it to my Goodreads "to-read" list. Thanks for the recommendation.


Monday 7th of October 2013

This post vindicates my weekend. Spent "my" money on gas and snacks for a wine tour with my parents and BF (who, in return, supplied the wine!), an evening at a coffee house to listen to a live band and share company of a new acquaintance after reading/taking notes on a reading hobby, and a movie out (although it was the $1.50 theater). Each of these was for the experience, and I wouldn't have had it any other way!

On the flip side, I also spent bonus "free" money (in the form of American Express gift card, so not save-able) on household items: lawn maintenance, a bookshelf, laundry drying rack, groceries, lightbulbs, etc. For some reason, I feel the urge to spend this free money super-wisely on necessities that I could otherwise have gone without, rather than on experiences like a spa day or even a haircut.

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