Have you ever considered the relationship between money and happiness? This is something I’ve been thinking about recently. Are happy people happy because they have more money? Or are people who are happy simply more satisfied with what they have?

For one writer, Melissa Leong, this question was also something that needed to be answered, which she does, in a new book called Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life.

If you are like me, and the relationship between happiness and money is something that piques your curiosity, then this book may just be for you.

Let me just cover some of Leong’s salient points, and tell you what stood out to me.

Money CAN buy happiness

Surprise! I’m sure that you weren’t excepting to see that sentence at the very start of this article.

You know the old saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” And to a degree, we all know this is true since money can’t buy peace of mind, satisfaction, delight, or any of the feelings that come with happiness.

But Leong’s point is this: in order to be happy, we need to feel secure. And this includes financial security. Her story starts this way, when she was newly-married, her husband got depressed. And so she went on a personal journey to find out what brings happiness to people’s lives, because, as she said, she needed to be happy for both of them.

One of the things Leong was so thankful for was that her husband’s condition came at a time when they were financially secure, and so she was able to concentrate on what she needed to do for their lives, instead of needing to worry about finances at that time.
Peak Satisfaction

I love it that Leong’s points are evidence-based, taken from the latest studies on finances, psychology, happiness studies, etc. One of the studies that she cites is from Purdue University, showing that when people reach a net worth of US $65,000 to $75,000 (S $88,000 to S $101,000).

This is a level of peak satisfaction, and believe it or not, additional money after that can actually cause a decrease in happiness.

Interested in finding out more? We’ve got you covered. Check out Can Money Buy You Happiness? The Science of Buying Joy

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More Money, More Problems

I was pretty shocked at the Purdue Study, to be honest. But Leong explains it this way.

The people who have more money often have more work. This means they have less time for their relationships, which is a huge factor in personal happiness (more on that later). It can also mean more stress, more competition, a sharper focus on material goods instead of relationships (again) and meaningful life experiences.

As people say, the things you end up owning you, instead of you owning them

And speaking of things

The truth is, things can make us happy—for a while. The new phone we wanted for months, designer jewelry, a brand new car with its brand new smell. We all know this, right?

Except that human beings experience a phenomenon called hedonistic adaptation wherein we get used, sometimes very quickly, to the new things we have. They become our new normal pretty quickly. And then we want the next new thing…which is why things don’t really make us happy, in the end.
Find out what really makes you happy

What’s the big secret then? Step one to striking the right balance between money and happiness is this: we must realize what makes us happy and spend our money on that, instead of the other way around. We should not spend our money chasing happiness.

So what does make people happy?

Social relationships make us the happiest

The biggest predictor of happiness is social relationships. And I know this to be true, based on everything I’ve read in my own happiness research.

Now, I know that not all relationships make us equally happy. Toxic relationships certainly don’t. Let’s reserve our resources (time, money, energy, etc.) for the relationships that bring us the most joy.

Experiences

Experiences are important because they bond you to people. Which brings us back to relationships again.

One of my good friends took his 85-year-old mother to her favorite vacation town when they were young, just to have ice cream and sit in the city square. He knew that she may not be around for much longer, and so he didn’t mind spending on a trip that they would both enjoy.

Timesavers

People who spend their money on things that save them time end up with more happiness. For example, if you can afford to hire a cleaning service for your house so you can spend more time with your kids, you’ll experience a jump in personal satisfaction.

Give (some of) it away

People who give to charity, no matter how much money they actually have, experience more happiness than those who don’t.

Healthy eating and exercise

Makes perfect sense. Health is wealth, after all, and so I can totally see how making decisions to live healthier lives make us happier

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3 ways to be happier NOW

Leong also outlines certain ways that we can choose to be happier now, in relation to money. It’s up to us to be proactive with our own happiness and well-being, and it’s good to know that there are things we can do in order to get happier.

1. Stop the comparison game

Apparently, social media is a big culprit in this case. If comparing your life to others only makes you miserable, stop. What you can do is to find someone you admire for their qualities and not necessarily their wealth or possessions. Finding out how they got to where they are in life can help inspire you as well.

2. Stop the negative language

Negative talk only leads to more unhappiness. For example, having to decline a dinner invitation because you’ve decided to budget your money elsewhere. Instead of saying outright “I can’t afford to have dinner with you” to some friends, which would make you feel bad, how about saying, “You know, I’m going to have to pass on that because I/m paying off some debts”? This is pro-active and responsible, and your friends will admire you for it.

3. Look at your last 3 unplanned purchases

What are the last three impulse buys that you made? Leong would almost bet money that you bought those things because of something that you were feeling, most likely, stress. Look for better ways of dealing with stress—exercise, a hobby, a conversation with friends, etc.

Build an ‘Oh happy money’ tribe

One more way to stay on track with your money and happiness goals, according to Leong, is to build what she calls an “oh happy money” tribe. Since peer support is important for success, it’s advisable to have your best people around you cheering you on when you’ve achieved your goals and encouraging you on days when it’s tough.

Your “oh happy money” tribe will cheer you on, and celebrate your successes with you.

PS–before we go, here’s one more article we think you’ll enjoy Research Shows You CAN Spend Your Way to Happiness

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Anna Maria Romero is the Deputy Director of Lifeline Foundation by day and a freelance writer by night. Lifeline Foundation’s advocacy includes empowerment through financial literacy, which is why she has written and taught on this subject on numerous occasions. An educator by profession and training, Anna Maria graduated from the University of the Philippines, cum laude, and taught for more than two decades, having opened a school in 1995. She stepped down as as principal of South City Central School in 2015 in order to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. She is a contributing writer to an online news site, and has been on the creative team of “This Journal Will Actually Change Someone’s Life” since 2008, which is published by FreeSpeech Publications in Manila, Philippines. Anna Maria is a passionate advocate, volunteer, organizer, counselor, communicator, editor, and traveler, who’s always ready to pack up and go where she’s needed.

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