Buck the trend

Science tells us we are getting less happy over time as materialism has increased. This is “because it takes time away from the things that nurture happiness, including relationships with family and friends.”

The least materialistic people report the most life satisfaction. This is because they’re spending their time at a wine tasting instead of the car dealership. Amazingly, even the richest materialists are slightly less happy than those who focus on experiences and connection with others.

Berkeley psychotherapist Allen Kanner, in his book the high price of materialism has shown the greatest life satisfaction comes from investing in activities which “aim at outcomes like personal growth and community connection”. In other words, discover new things and spend time with your friends. And good shiraz.

Money can buy… security

It’s not money which leads to unhappiness, it’s the striving for it. Insecurity (both financial and emotional) – lies at the heart of consumeristic cravings.

Having good financial management and a savings plan is the first best step to build security and move away from the cravings and irrational behaviour which insecurity causes.

Security gives you the ability to think long term, and avoid outsourcing things which increase your connectedness (such as taking the time to drive your own children to school) in favour of outsourcing things which reduce it (such as home time spent in front of your computer).

Invest in happiness, get instant returns

Happiness expert Daniel Gilman PhD has researched happiness for many years. If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right, his top five spending behaviours for investing in happiness are:

  • Buy more experiences and fewer material goods
  • Delay consumption (save for what you want – don’t borrow!)
  • Help others (charity, your community, or the environment)
  • Buy many small pleasures
  • Avoid becoming over-insured (for example with redundant extended warranties)

I’m sure wine tastings would come in around number six.

Make “future you” a happier you

The amazing thing about experience purchases is they also give us happiness beforehand and afterwards!

A Cornell university study shows the enjoyment you derive from experiential purchases begins even before you buy. If you’re thinking about impending ‘experience’ purchases, you have higher levels of happiness than if you anticipate spending money on things.

It gets even better after the wine tasting and cheese platter though! You get far more “retrospective enjoyment” from investing in experiences than from material purchases.

Of course, to enjoy an experience, you need both the time and the ability to focus and enjoy it fully. Bill Butler can help with both: Not only does automating the repetitive financial chores free up time for experiences – it also removes those nagging worries which distract you from appreciating the new Shiraz’s subtle fruity bouquet!

Jay Stephens

Jay Stephens

Jay began his career in London with Rabobank, CLS bank and a Lloyd’s of London syndicate. Jay’s work has spanned corporate communications, content editing, newspaper articles, courseware, blogging, policy drafting, technical writing, and a regular crossword. He is passionate about 8-bit tunes, self-improvement, and the Oxford comma.