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Buying Happiness

Since the 1900’s there’s been this idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” and how we need to consume more and acquire more material wealth in order to be happy.  There has also been a backlash to that with the saying “money can’t buy you happiness” which rejects the idea of constant consumption as a source of feeling better about yourself.  So which is it? Does money buy you happiness? I want to come down decisively in the “it depends” column. Looking at the research it seems that it’s not really about spending money to increase happiness, it’s about spending money the right way.  Let’s look at a few ways that spending money can indeed create happiness.

  1. Buy Experiences- The biggest key to extracting happiness from your spending is to buy experiences over material goods.  You may have just become an attending and are societally expected to buy a big house and a fancy car, but those items don’t lead to lasting happiness.  Instead think about taking a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit or go to a concert or event you’ve always wanted to see. Those experiences create more lasting happiness than material goods.

  2. Spend on Others- Perhaps counterintuitive but spending or investing in others is one of the best ways to increase your happiness and sense of wealth.  For doctors or nurses, you know how hard it is to get where you are, so being able to help others reach their potential can bring incredible amounts of happiness.  

  3. Buy Time- The ability to outsource tasks that you don’t enjoy can create lasting happiness by taking something you don’t like completely off your plate.  Perhaps you’ve started your own practice but hate accounting and bookkeeping. Being able to outsource that will allow you to focus on your patients and not have to worry about the aspects of private practice you dread.

  4. Make it Special- By limiting access to something you truly enjoy, it will keep the novelty and happiness you derive from it long-lasting.  When you become a nurse or doctor there’s a tendency to overindulge in things that you kept from yourself when going through school. But abundance can be the enemy of appreciation, so by limiting yourself you’ll maintain that level of happiness.

  5. Delaying Consumption- By purchasing something now and waiting for awhile before enjoying it you’ll increase the amount of happiness you receive simply because the price you paid is in the past, while the enjoyment is in the present.  Think of paying for a vacation in advance, you’ll be looking forward to it while getting through night shifts or being on call and when it finally comes time you won’t be thinking about how much it cost you’ll simply be able to enjoy it.  

Many people believe that money can’t buy you happiness but it’s much harder to put that into practice than most would think.  There is still a deeply ingrained feeling of needing to consume in order to be happy, whether you consciously believe in that or not.  However, these are ways in which you can alter spending to increase happiness that doesn’t focus on the pure consumption side of things, but on the appreciation of what you have and can do.  What do you think? Have you been able to buy happiness or what methods have you used to increase long term happiness through spending? Comment below or send me your thoughts here.  

finance for nurses