Buying Happiness

Despite popular assertions to the contrary, science tells us that money can buy happiness. To a point.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I guess this is a result of the same research, but Daniel Kahneman had a TED talk a couple years ago that I thought was interesting. After the talk is over (at around the 18 minute mark) he explains a bit about the correlation between income and happiness.

The video is here…

Every time I go with #8, I get severely disappointed. I vowed to never do it again after I bought a Drobo. Which if I had done a little more comparison shopping (#7) I probably shouldn’t have bought it to begin with.

The rest are all pretty good.

Of course money can’t buy happiness! Money is happiness!

On a serious note, I recently moved to a different continent so I’m in the process of buying a new everything. I think these tips are pretty much what I normally try to do, but I’ll try to keep them in mind as they’re extremely relevant at this moment.

I’m actually surprised at how many of those points I arrived at of my own accord. While I don’t necessarily practice all of them, I do know that metering out purchases feels better, I try to weigh the pros and cons of a purchase when I buy something, though it doesn’t always work out. I rarely get buyers remorse, probably a side-effect of my packrat nature, everything could be useful, so nothing is a poor purchase.

I tend to buy things to facilitate purchases. As in, I want to have the experience of building a quadcopter, so I buy all the materials. Or I want the experience of working to perfect my home network, so I buy the equipment I need for that.

I always enjoy reading the life-lessons posts.

Money doesn’t always buy happiness, but putting thought into how we spend it can!

Thanks for the reminder.

This study seems to make no mention of debt – worry about debt is a significant factor in happiness. I realize it doesn’t mention a bunch of other important things also, but debt is so directly related with income that I am surprised it wasn’t called out…

The other benefit of following the herd is that you will probably enjoy something more if you think you’ll enjoy it. And by reading the reviews or whatnot, you’ll set that expectation.

The plural of “anecdote” is “data”: I read the Yelp reviews for a diner and they called out the bacon. I don’t know if the bacon was really all that (it’s hard to go wrong with bacon) but I am pretty sure I enjoyed that bacon more than I would have if I hadn’t known that others thought it exceptional.

#7 Comparison shopping: There’s a risk/reward here. You can spend forever comparing things and get what you think is the best and it’s actually awful and you’ll feel awful. But if you do get the best and for cheaper than if you’d just splurged without thinking, then you can feel good about yourself for being so wise.

#1 Some things can be experiences. Sometimes I get great joy out of simply using things that are well made.

It’s better to do things than to buy stuff.

I figured this out about five years ago and it’s tremendously enriched my life ever since. I still buy stuff, but I generally try to only buy stuff that will enable me to do something that I’m really interested in.

Two quick points. First off, happiness is 1/3rd off now, at $50K per year:

Secondly, to point #5: I have two Lego architecture sets I got for Christmas that I’m really enjoying not assembling yet. A cheap way to get your buy-now-consumer-later fix is to grab yourself an iTunes gift card, or credit with another shop where you can get a number of things for $15 (Amazon Kindle store, maybe?) The browsing knowing you can spend the money satisfies the shopping habit.

  1. Get a bike, get a skateboard, get a snowboard, buy things that provide ongoing experiences. Why apps or sites that catalogue them are also popular…

  2. Why donation screens at supermarkets and retailers are so successful. “Click here to donate 1 additional collar to cancer research.” Instant feel good button

  3. Why 50% of my paycheck goes toward good food…

  4. Thank you. Convince retailers of this… but then assurance would be missed at their reduced margins

  5. Saving for an experience is worth it.

  6. Why smartphones are purchased so often… Look the salesman listens to music, compares in-store prices to the internet, and can take pictures! I’ll buy all this stuff at retail price RIGHT now so I can too…

  7. Nice wrap up

11 comments and nobody has mention the girlfriend experience? (that’d be the kind of experience I’d like to buy).
I’m not so sure about 3). I recall watching a program on TV about parenting and how you should teach your kids to save for a bigger payout.
Also, I don’t think 8) is my cup of tea, feels to Apple fanboy for my taste.

One thing that is not mentioned here is that income is often correlated with status and people with higher status are often happier than those without.

Actually, I have no data for this, and it may actually be a very wrong assumption, but it is a common one. Money is correlated with things that make people happy.

I buy insurance on certain things and you should too… Got it on my monitor. One month in, line of dead pixels. Get it replaced, cost me 80 at purchase and I still have nearly four years. Headphones. Always, always get the replacement plan. SSDs… For 20-50 dollars I can get it replaced when I inevitably burn it out.

It’s interesting recommending experiences instead of things. I can see some of the wisdom of that, as I have a small collection of cherished memories of random, unique, highly memorable stuff I did. It’s a very small but dear collection.

In practice, traveling to go do stuff is the one thing I have all but never actually done. Even now, thinking about how nice it might be to collect some new memories, I just can’t justify pissing away that much money on something so ephemeral. Every time I price out a trip somewhere, I run away screaming.

Maybe memories really are worth buying, but if so, I still can’t afford them.

I hate how snarky this is going to sound but: is this the new direction of your blog or just a temporary diversion? The last 2 posts have been the kind of pop-psychology articles I can find anywhere. I’ve been following this blog for ~6 years for your tech insight. If this new direction is temporary, I’ll stick around. If it’s here to stay, it’s not the feed I signed up for.

Your blog is turning into self help pretty rapidly, personally I prefer your more techy posts. Although I guess your posts are just a reflection of what you find interesting at the time.

The last two detours to philosophy are quite revealing. I come from a Biblical perspective and find the posts completely missing the point. The nature of man revealed in the Bible squares with the lying and groping for happiness in wrong places perfectly. You should study the NT sometime.

Weird Al said it very well in the song “This Is the Life” from Johnny Dangerously. “If money can’t buy happiness, I guess I’ll have to rent it.”