Can money buy happiness? It’s an age-old question. More often than not you hear “money can’t buy happiness.” But does anyone really know that to be true? Typically the example given is an old man who works so much he never had time to spend with his family or friends, so he ends up alone in his mansion and sad. However, if he really has THAT much money, can’t he buy friends and find someone to create a family with? The question goes much deeper than this, though. “Statistically speaking, household income is strongly related to both emotional well-being and a person’s evaluation of their own quality of life” (CNN). I’m breaking this down to show what money can buy and what money can’t buy.
I love food. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, one of the splurges I allow myself is going out to eat. My husband and I truly appreciate good food at great restaurants, not just to say we did it, but for the experience. We love to try new foods; this is something that truly makes us happy. We need to eat to survive. Food is not free. Going from being hungry to being full creates a sense of happiness. So, in essence money leads you to food which leads you to happiness, meaning money indirectly can buy happiness through food.
You ever notice how you’re in a way better mood when you come back from vacation than you were a week or two before you left for vacation? Vacations make people happy. It’s a break from routine, a change of scenery and generally you are choosing a destination that you like (or think you will like if it’s somewhere new). Unfortunately, vacations are generally not free. Whether it’s the cost of transportation to get there, the lodging, food, or activities while you’re there, there is generally some sort of cost associated with vacationing. So if money can buy you a vacation, which makes you happy, again, it is indirectly buying happiness.
You can’t get a house without money, unless, of course, it is gifted to you in which case whoever gave it to you had the money for the house. A house may not seem like it makes you happy, but if you think back to when you FIRST bought your house, weren’t you so excited to own your own place? If you haven’t yet bought a house, think about how exciting it is to own your own home. It’s a great feeling. It signifies building a life, whether that be alone or with a significant other or with a whole family. To me, building a life and a future family in my home makes me very, very happy.
Summing this next category up into one word, money can buy things. Money can buy a car, clothes, shoes, bags, furniture, décor, a boat, a private jet….I can go on forever. I’d be lying if I said these things don’t make people happy. Maybe not all of them for everyone, but for example, I personally LOVE my car and love clothing, shoes and bags. I love to dress up and look nice, not to show off for other people, but because it makes me feel good. This brings me happiness.
With everything I’ve mentioned above, you may be wondering, “is there anything money CAN’T buy, then?” The answer is yes.
Family and Friends
Family and friends add joy to your life. Money can’t buy family. Family is something you are born into and grows throughout time through marriage, but you cannot purchase these people. Your family is a group of people that you have a very special bond with. You also cannot buy friendship. Sure, when you have money and lots of nice thing, new people may want to hang out with you; however, this isn’t a true friendship. Friends are those people you can trust and tell your secrets to; they’re the people you want to spend time with because they brighten your day; they’re the people you can count on when something goes wrong; they’re there for you no matter what. If you lost all your money or things, would these people still be around?
Love is something that cannot be bought. People can get married for money, but marriage does not automatically mean love. I knew a girl who was “dating” a guy that she met though the website SeekingArrangement.com. He bought her designer things, paid her mortgage, treated her to vacations (that he wouldn’t go on with her), purchased all new expensive furniture for her place, bought dinners for them (but would rarely eat in public with her) and more. He did not treat her like a real girlfriend. They didn’t formally live together and she was never allowed at his place. She never met his friends or family. He didn’t want to know about her life. He was condescending towards her. She tried to convince herself she was in love, but really she was in it for the money. He treated her well by giving her a lifestyle she wanted, but there was no emotional connection between them. Love makes you happy (most of the time) and there was no love here.
While money can buy you things like vacations and activities, it can’t buy you the memories you make while on a vacation or doing something. My favorite part of my memories is thinking back to who they are with. Vacationing with people I love brings me so much joy and the company is the main reason I enjoy my vacations so much! Memories, to me, aren’t just about remembering the sights; memories are about the feelings you had while you experienced something. Money can’t buy the feelings you get from reminiscing or being able to reminisce on the feelings you had.
Money can buy temporary happiness, but you cannot buy things that last necessarily. You can buy food, but you consume that. You can buy a car, but eventually it will stop working or you will want a newer one. You can buy a house, but at some point you’ll want something bigger, better or more updated. You can buy clothes and accessories, but they will go out of style with time. You can’t buy family or friends. You can’t buy your memories. You can’t buy love or joy or pride or honesty. Money can indirectly buy things that make you happy for a short time, but money cannot buy true, pure happiness. Money can’t buy you the things that last a lifetime like family, friends, love, memories and feelings.
We must learn to be happy with what we have and make the most of it. Being happy isn’t about how much money you have; it’s about your mindset. This is why people who put themselves in debt for things (i.e. clothing, cars, huge house, vacations beyond what they can afford, etc.) are never truly happy. They are in a never-ending cycle of “give me more.” I will leave you with the chart below, which shows that income after a certain threshold truly does not impact your happiness.
“If there is anything I have learned in my life, you will not find that passion in things, and you will not find that passion in money, because the more things and the more money you have, the more you will just look around and use that as the metric and there will always be someone with more” Randy Pausch, from a speech given to the 2008 graduating class of Carnegie Mellon.