Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Chapter 7. Buy Some Happiness.
GR Quotes and my notes
The relationship between money and happiness was one of the most interesting, most complicated, and most sensitive questions in my study of happiness. – Gretchen Rubin (GR)
Everyone has to make up their mind if money is money or money isn’t money and sooner or later they always do decide that money is money. – Gertrude Stein
Money satisfies basic material needs. It’s a means and an end. It’s a way to keep score, win security, exercise generosity, and earn recognition. It can foster mastery or dilettantism. It symbolizes status and success.
Although money can’t buy happiness, it certainly seemed that people appear fairly well convinced about the significance of money to their happiness… And in fact, studies show that people in wealthier countries do report being happier than people in poorer countries, and within a particular country, people with more money do tend to be happier than those with less. Also, as countries become richer, their citizens become less focused on the physical and economic security and more concerned with goals such as happiness and self-realization. Prosperity allows us to turn our attention to more transcendent matters – to yearn for lives not just of material comfort but of meaning, balance, and joy. – GR
It turns out that while the absolute level of wealth matters, relative ranking matters as well. One important way that people evaluate their circumstances is to compare themselves with the people around them and with their own previous experience.
Most people, the world over, rate themselves as mildly happy.
Can money buy happiness? The answer: no. That was clear. Money alone can’t buy happiness. But, as a follow up, I asked myself, ‘Can money help buy happiness?’ The answer: yes, used wisely, it can.
It depends on what kind of person you are.
It depends on how you spend your money
It depends on how much money you have relative to the people around you and relative to your own experience.
When money or health is a problem, you think of little else; when it’s not a problem, you don’t think much about it. Both money and health contribute to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of them brings much more unhappiness than possessing them brings happiness.
These wonderful insights from GR are amazing. I’ve been fortunate to not lack for money to cover the necessities. I solidly agree with all here points. I found the comparisons to my peers has made me feel bad but in reality it wasn’t that bad. I may have earned less than friends at the same time, but it was more envious than suffering. More pride than actual starving. I’m a gadget guy and money has always been mentally linked to buying gadgets. I’m also a triathlete, so money is associated with buying experiences, races, coaching. Money is a funny thing as a means and as an end. Of course it’s nice to be rich. It’s better to be happy. Somewhere in GR’s blog she wrote about $75,000 being the critical mass number in the US, by which, if you have less than that you struggle with basics and insecurity, and, if you have more than that you start struggling with worrying about saving it and prolonging it. I have seen that myself. There is a point where you scratch and claw to get over the basics of housing and career and family and stuff. Then, once you cross some fuzzy line you start to worry about it growing and sustaining itself. That last quote is very true. It you won’t have enough, you start to obsess it. But if you do have enough, you don’t necessarily think about it so much. That’s not a bad thing either.
Indulge in a Modest Splurge
GR reminds us not to be too miserly with our money. Use the money for good. Enjoy it on good stuff. Enjoy it with others. Share it when you use it.
Buy Needful Things
When I began to pay attention to people’s relationship to money, I recognized two different approaches to buying: “underbuying” and “overbuying”. – GR
I grew up in a family of overbuyers. Then, I married an underbuyer. I have happily settled into a ready reserve buyer. I buy one extra and not too much more. That’s my guideline. I have an extra tube of toothpaste in the drawer, so when I run out I have it ready to use and I have a few weeks to replace it. But, I don’t buy a Costco-size, ten- thousand count tube. And I don’t buy just one and then have none when I run out. I apply it to most stuff. I buy one extra on consumables and even that dress shirt. I have one extra to have ready and then when one rips, I have a bit of time to replace it. I’m not a hoarder. I found Joshua Becker refreshingly clean in his Becoming Minimalist.
The most important meaning of “Spend Out” however, is not to be a scorekeeper, not ot stint on love and generosity. -GR
When one loves, one does not calculate. Saint Therese of Lisieux.
Spending out is buying stuff and using stuff so other people can enjoy life. It is generosity. Finances turned into happiness.
Give Something Up
Sometimes something that makes you happy also makes you unhappy, like smoking cigarettes, having one more cupcake, staying up until 3:00 a.m. to watch The Godfather, and – surely one of the most popular happy/unhappy activities – shopping. Many people get a big kick out of buying thins, but once they’re home, cash register happiness changes to remorse and guilt. – GR
I used to be a big shopper and fortunately I knocked out that habit. In the last few years, I have moderated my shopping splurges by my habit with Amazon.com. I put what I want in the cart and then leave it there for a couple days. I come back to it later and see I still really want it. It may have seemed super great at the time, but a couple days later, I can live without it. Some things don’t get immediately deleted from the cart, I move them to “later”. It’s like a stalling tactic to see I have any remorse.
Money is a good servant, but a bad master.
It is not easy to master money. It is not easy to be content with what you have. But, thankfulness for each little thing and each big thing go a long way to make better choices one day at a time.
As an aside, I was psyched today to hear that my blog was recommended by a mom to her college student, to help her in her sophomore ‘slump’. Happiness vibes out to you guys!