Happy Money

This book has an interesting premise — how to find more happiness in each hour of life. It’s a great idea, and the authors have a few ideas on how to make minor changes that can help life become more enjoyable. It’s a quick read, and has some nice vignettes about how people have found enjoyment.

The authors organize recent research around five themes: Buy Experiences; Make It a Treat; Buy Time; Pay Now, Consume Later; and Invest in Others. They offer a host of research explaining how different studies have shown the increase in happiness of each of these activities, and it does make sense. I wasn’t always convinced that the experiment accurately measured the gains touted, or that the sample size or change in outcomes was sufficient to make a sweeping claim, but overall I think they’re pretty accurate. They also emphasize the value of mixing these themes, and I would agree with it. For example, our family is going on a cruise in a few days, and we booked it a couple months ago. The countdown has been a joy, and we’ve all been talking about it, dreaming about it, planning what a wonderful time it’s going to be, bragging about it to friends, and getting things ready. There has been a lot of happiness over the past couple months simply from having the trip planned; in addition, having paid for it a couple months ago, we will now feel it as almost free (on the other hand, we won’t feel bad spending money on the trip because the big bill was already paid, so there’s a downside to it). Similarly from personal experience, we enjoy adding cinnamon to our coffee in the morning for a little extra flavor. However, when we began doing that every day, it lost its luster. So, we now add cinnamon on weekends, as sort of an extra happy perk to start off a weekend day. And the Invest in Others is a seemingly well-known but rarely-followed piece of common knowledge — that giving money away is happiness-inducing, and that helping others makes us feel good too.

The book didn’t have any eye-opening research, or draw my attention to something I didn’t really know already. It parses what seems to be minor details in the experience of life, but I appreciate that they’ve spent so much time figuring out how to help people become happier. These days, we’d all benefit if more people followed this advice.