Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The September 2011 Wellness Letter concluded with advice about spending money for happiness.
1. Buy more experiences and fewer material goods.  Experiences (vacations, education classes, concerts, shows, etc.) stick with us but the pleasure gained from a new possession quickly fades.

2. Spend money on others.  Giving activates brain areas associated with the happiness of receiving rewards, and produces happiness by strengthening social bonds.

3. The "buzz" of pleasure from a purchase wears of quickly even if the purchase is large.  Spend money on many small pleasures instead of one big purchase.

4. Delay the actual purchase.  Anticipation is often as significant a pleasure as ownership.

5. Prioritize spending to reduce your every-day hassles and make yourself feel a little spoiled each day.  This affects overall happiness much more than spending on occasional vacations or major life events.

6. Read product reviews to make sure your purchase actually causes people to become happier.
What do you think?

I would add to their second point.  Giving gifts is only half of a dynamic.  The other half is realizing that in one sense we do not really own our things (because when we die we cannot take them with us) and we do not really own what we have given away (because other people claim those)--so the only items we really own are what we are giving away right now.

Personally, the fifth item is key for me.  Because of my wife's celiac we do a lot of baking and the granite counter tops we has installed a few years ago are a huge help as well making our kitchen a nicer place to be.  Because of my tendon condition, allergies, and the hours I spend holding an infant our spa is a huge health benefit.  I'm not a gardener but I know folks who spend money to have a pretty garden which in turns helps them have more peace and rest each day.  Some items provide ongoing happiness, and those are key.

(Ironically, the fifth item is also the one I do worst at.  My family is way above average with thrifty lifestyle choices that save money but increase hassle: heating with a wood stove, using cloth diapers, grinding our own flour, baking our own bread and cookies, etc.)

Finally, I must be an oddball because for me anticipation has nearly zero pleasure.

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