Happier Through Apps

Maximizing the everyday small pleasures

Good luck sustaining that, Calvin.

Spending money is something I am usually not very excited about. I might be about the thing I am buying, definitely not the action itself. But a few months ago, this changed thanks to two companies.

The first one, as has been the case with many transformations in my life, is Apple. Last year Apple Pay had already been out for a while but my bank is not known for being the fastest to catch up with technology. This annoyed me to the point that I even considered switching to another one but I decided being patient was the smartest bet. It’s easy to wait for something you know will eventually happen and that’s exactly what I did. It took its sweet time but the moment arrived as promised: I could finally use Apple Pay.

The first time I did I could barely contain my emotion. I feel a mix of embarrassment and pride acknowledging this, but I distinctly remember I woke up early that day because I knew exactly when and where I was going to use it for the first time. Every single morning from Monday to Friday I have a cortado at the bar next door to my office. It’s not the best one in town but that place has something that wins you over. The fact that the biggest Apple fan you’ll ever meet was going to be there (and didn’t have Apple Pay yet because his bank was even slower than mine) might have had something to do with my choice but that’s a more complicated topic that would need a whole different kind of article.

Fast-forward to the moment of truth and Apple Pay was everything I hoped it would be. Intuitive and easy to use, deceptively simple but going that extra mile that most people don’t notice but makes all the difference — in this case, the haptic feedback and, especially, the sound that accompanied the transaction. To whoever created it, I can only say: your work is beautiful. Please keep doing it.

So that was it. I had Apple Pay now and I thought I would quickly get over it. But I didn’t. It’s been months now and I still feel a jolt of excitement every time I use it. Again, please keep building beautiful, minimal products like this one.

Beautiful. Remarkable. Stunning.

The second company that’s making me happier while spending money is Saveboost [1]. Spare change used to be one of my pet peeves. In my mind, anything left after rounding up an amount (both physically and digitally) was already spent so I ended up wasting it. Say I bought a book for 22,5€. Those extra 2,5€ were as good as gone. Scale that to a camera or a transoceanic flight and you get a sense of the problem. Maybe I should have rethought my conception of money, but why change yourself when there’s an app that can turn your wrong thinking into something useful? Cue: enter Saveboost — and now Revolut and probably more soon.

The way it works is really simple. You can choose between many saving methods (for the sake of experimenting I have a few combined myself) but the most original is transferring all your change into your savings account. Easy. In my mind it makes sense because in a way this change was money already spent (i.e. not in my main account anymore) but instead of wasting it on overpriced coffee, I save it. Now every time I buy something, I check if there will be any change going to my Saveboost account. Am I a little obsessive? Maybe. But also happy, which is all that matters.

How can you not fall in love with this logo?

And that’s exactly where this uninteresting account of my financial habits was going: happiness. Even tiny products have a huge impact on it. Whether we notice them or not, they are embedded in our daily life so not only have they the capacity to improve our wellbeing but also to modify our behavior. When choosing whether or not to adopt a new product, a few questions help me assess the positive impact it can have. Does this product improve my daily life? Does it make me smile? Does it turn a boring situation into an exciting one? Furthermore, does it encourage healthy behaviors? If it checks all these boxes, I will be loyal forever — or until its creators break my heart.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course the amount of happiness a single product can report is limited. Actually not even the combination of all the greatest products in the world could match, say, spending time with your favorite person. But modest happiness does add up. These details might seem futile but whenever I think about them I remember something that Benjamin Franklin (allegedly) said: “Happiness consists more in the small conveniences of pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life.” If he was right, it only makes sense to do our best to improve these small conveniences. Happiness is a choice and I choose to maximize my chances of being the happiest I genetically can.

[1] May 17, 2018 — Update: Saveboost has come to an end 💔 even though there are similar alternatives, you will be missed 🐷