how to buy happiness

Making smart choices with your money frequently gets a bad rap.  Purchasing things brings happiness, but frugal sounds like a noise you make when you’re hit by a linebacker.  Let’s face it, nobody likes to put off a purchase of something they want – it ruins the fun and maybe even brings a little sadness.

Coming to grips with your money, or lack of it, is a herculean chore similar to loosing weight or quitting smoking.  If you don’t want it really bad, it’s just not going to happen.  You gain an awful lot, however, by coming to grips with your money.  So rather than focusing on the small things that we can’t have right now, let’s focus on the big things that we CAN have by being smarter about money.

The happiness we gain by giving up something immediate is happiness in the form of freedom.  Many of us HAVE to go to work because we have to have the income to support our chosen standard of living.  And we’ve chosen our standard of living largely based on the income we can bring in.  So if we wanted to take a lower paying, but more personally fulfilling, job, we’re stuck.  We can’t get out of our chosen lifestyle and so we remain in a job just for the money.  Imagine the freedom that would come from not having to work.

Many of us have a huge mortgage that consumes an inordinate amount of our income.  We have this mortgage so that we can have someplace to sleep after we spend all day working hard to pay the mortgage.  Imagine the freedom that would come from not having a mortgage.

The Joneses.  Oh how we hate the Joneses.  The Joneses just got a new car, fresh landscaping, and are going to St. Thomas – again – for a family vacation.  But they rely on credit cards and home equity to maintain this veneer of wealth.  If we didn’t have to keep buying things just because the Joneses do, how much better off would we be?  No new debt, rapidly paying off existing debt, rapidly building real wealth – the kind without the veneer – that will lead to real freedom.  Imagine the freedom that would come from not having to keep up with the Joneses.  (My apologies if your name happens to be Jones.  Nothing personal, you understand.)

So contrary to commonly heard advice, I think money CAN buy happiness.  Instead of buying the happiness that comes with a dinner out, or an iPod, or a tropical vacation, let’s focus on the happiness that comes from a big bank account, a house that belongs to us, not the mortgage company, or a job that offers more than a paycheck.  Our future selves will be a lot happier with real wealth than with the appearance of it.

This article originally appeared in the October 22, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

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