The recent slew of holidays has left us all impoverished and with new celebrations coming up (e.g. Valentine’s Day), Gulf Insider asks the age-old question, can money really buy happiness?
Although happiness may mean different things to different people, a common constant is the question of money. Andrew Blackman, in an article for The Wall Street Journal, stated that money does make people happy to some extent but “you may not be getting the most bang for your buck”.
When people look back on their experiences, they find that these trips, concerts, or bonding time with family actually made them happier than material purchases.
Many people around the world believe that retail therapy, buying a new car, a new pair of shoes, or a new gadget can make them happy. In addition, because of the advent of social media, where every day there is always the latest “must-have”, or “must-buy”, people buy things they don’t need or want to impress people they don’t even know or like. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been so flagrant.
After the brief thrill of the purchase, once the pictures are up on Facebook and Instagram, people revert back to the same level of happiness as before. Psychologists call this the hedonic adaptation, we soon adapt to material purchases, no matter how grand the new house is, or how fast a ride the new car is.
Ryan Howell, associate professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University decided to investigate how people spend money and the levels of satisfaction and happiness they feel after purchase. His findings are very interesting and show that people believe that material purchases offer better value for money because experiences are fleeting whereas material goods like a car or a laptop will last longer. So even though people will occasionally splurge on a big vacation or concert tickets, when they are in money-conscious mode, they will stick to buying material goods. However, when people look back on their experiences, they find that these trips, concerts, or bonding time with family actually made them happier than material purchases.
According to Abraham Maslow’s Self-Actualization theory, people need to take care of their physiological and safety needs before moving to the next three layers which are love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. If we follow this theory, then money can indeed buy happiness. To take care of physiological and safety needs, you would definitely need money. It is interesting to note that although money is not directly tied to love/ belonging, esteem, or self-actualization; if you do have money that is not income based, you can pursue the things that are most important to you like taking care of your family, being an artist, or traveling around the world.
Given that we all have limited resources, the question is how do we put what we have to work, to give ourselves a happiness payback?
One advice is to attain all the three layers in the sequence. Overspending before you have a nest egg stashed up (to ensure your quality of life, even if you lose your job) is not a good option.
Another idea is to buy things that are in accordance with your values. If you value traveling, buying a plane ticket to an exotic destination is sure to make you happy. Ditto if you bring your friends and/or family along for the experience. If you like helping people, then consider putting in volunteer time and donating to a worthy cause. All of these things, as long as they align with your personal values are sure to give you a psychological boost.
If money has the ability to make us happy, the lack thereof, many experts say can make people miserable. Being in debt, is a strong unhappiness factor. In this case, your savings are your shield. Michael Norton, co-author of Happy Money: the Science of Smarter Spending says “Though it is not fun to save, having saved money is fun. It is a preventive measure”. To make things easier, automate when you can.
What’s the point of money if you don’t have good friends? – Mary Annin Jacob, Project Manager, Arabian Magazines
I think money is not only about nice things but also the opportunity to enjoy life and the freedom to do whatever you want. It’s about getting different experiences. It opens up the world to you and yes, for me, it’s the road towards happiness. As for love or friendship, you might find it or not, regardless of money. – Yulia Trubnikova, Sales Account Manager, Gulf Insider
In this day and age, money is a high-stress factor, either individually or in your household. Of course, there are things in life that are priceless like love, but I think it’s ignorant to dismiss the facet of money. Money drives ambition, it drives people’s outlook on life; it also drives individual creativity: fashion, social media, style; this all comes with a price tag. – Jayne Green, Editor, Bahrain Confidential
Money can buy food and food makes me happy. – Bribin Matthew, Web Developer, Arabian Magazines