“If I were a rich man…” as the song lyrics say in the production of Fiddler on the Roof. If you were, would you strut like a peacock or have a fine tin roof and wooden floors? We’ve all thought about what we would do if money was not an object. But do we really think that money buys happiness?

Money Buys Time

The responsibilities that surround our lives these days can be overwhelming when the days are long and the demands are high. In our fast paced lives, there are services that might be beneficial such as, grocery delivery, fluff and fold and others that can be utilized to make our lives easier, if they can be afforded.

The time these services could save might be several hours on a weekly basis. Then, those hours can be spent accomplishing other things or doing things that make you happy, right? It depends. I tried a grocery delivery service once and there were many times the selected items weren’t delivered. The store was out of them. The fruit and vegetables didn’t look as fresh as they should. In the end, I had to go to the store anyway to pick up the missing or unacceptable items. It makes me wonder if there was any real time saved by ordering the items and having them delivered. I was mostly more frustrated than happy. (Full disclosure: I stepped out of a tow truck, missed the step and landed on the ground. Unable to walk for weeks, I tried a delivery service.)

Balance in life is wonderful, but it’s not easy. We try to do so much. Taking a break is good – and needed. I know a woman who cares for patients at their private residences. The families really appreciate her taking care of their loved ones. It allows the patient to remain at home, comfortable and supervised while the family has an opportunity to work, run errands or spend time however they choose. Money affords the family the freedom to do what they need to do – care for their loved one – but does it buy happiness?

An article recently published by Medical News Today, compiled data from participants in Norway, United States, the Netherlands and Canada. It was a field experiment that provided casual evidence. The results were an interesting read. The adult participants of the study were given two payments of $40 to allocate to chores. The results showed that when money was invested in time saving expenses – hiring a nanny or someone to clean – people were happier. So, in this case, by making their lives a little easier, participants did find that money buys happiness.

Money Well Spent

Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, in a 2014 article states that, “The problem is the way we usually spend money doesn’t pay off for our happiness, but there are ways we can shift our spending to make us happier.” He believes that buying experiences makes you happier than purchasing material items when the same amount is spent. Also, sharing the experience with others makes us happier than having the experience alone. 

Sarah Gervais, Associate Professor of Psychology, Social and Cognitive Program and Law-Psychology Program, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recommends three principles.

  1. Being rich isn’t necessarily the path to happiness.
  2. Doing makes us happier than having.
  3. Consider spending money on others.

She mentions that before you purchase anything think about whether it will REALLY make you happy. She also suggests planning a trip, learning a new skill or donating to good causes.

In my lifetime, I’m not convinced that money buys happiness. I’ve had money and I’ve been flat broke. Happiness is a state of mind. It’s an inside job. It’s about peace of mind and truthfully, that can’t be bought.

FAVORITE QUOTES

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.  -Steve Martin

Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy. -George Lorimer

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. -Winston Churchill