It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be quite a happy fellow.
Having an abundance of money doesn’t guarantee greater happiness, of course, but it can help you acquire it. As Gretchen Rubin, happiness expert and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, explains, spending money to get happiness has nothing to do with lavish shopping sprees. When done right, it’s a thoughtful, selective and highly personalized activity.
The most important first step is to ask yourself: just what kind of person are you? What do you really like doing? You might love to visit art museums or you might love to binge-watch Netflix. You might thrive on eating at new trendy restaurants or you might prefer cooking at home. It’s important to be candid with yourself so you don’t waste money — and time — on pursuits that truly don’t appeal to your personality type. The key is to be as honest as possible with yourself.
A second step is to choose a category in your life you would like to improve and then think of things — particularly experiences, as generally they tend to be more rewarding — that you could buy to enhance them. For example, if you’re looking to boost your friends and families category, you could offer to host a party for a friend (in Gretchen’s case, she hosted a wedding party for her sister). Or if you’d like to promote energy and health, you might pay for weekly strength-training workouts or start spending on healthier lunch options — ponying up the extra few dollars for a salad instead of a sandwich. Want to conserve happy memories? For this, Gretchen purchased file boxes and filled them with pictures that evoked happy memories of her two girls and her husband. Additional happiness categories to consider are work more effectively and support important causes.
While Gretchen confesses that she, herself, rarely feels “cash register happiness,” indulging in “modest splurges,” when they’re customized to your passions, can offer surprisingly long-lasting satisfaction. But it takes self-knowledge to look within yourself and locate what actually moves you, rather than just imitating the purchasing desires of those around you. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses — it’s about finding what you love and helping to bring it out.
And if you worry about feeling guilty occasionally splurging on yourself, family or friends, keep in mind that the happiness experienced when making a purchase isn’t limited to the simple satisfaction of indulging a consumeristic desire. If you’re choosing wisely, the gain creates an atmosphere of growth, and growth is a direct link to happiness.