Can Money Buy Happiness?
The short answer? Not at all. And Yes.
Let’s make one thing clear.
This article is written by a nonconforming professional. By definition, the writer has their needs like shelter, food, clothing and love met.
But can money buy happiness?
Well, if you are a person living on the street it sure can.
If you were dead broke, living on the street in Victoria, British Columbia at the end of September 2013 and had to face the continuous torrential downpour of rain and damp weather with no money that would really suck. It would particularly suck if you had nowhere to go, no dry clothes, and no food in your belly. If all of a sudden you were given enough money to obtain a warm hotel room, a nice meal(s), and some warm clothing, there is NO QUESTION about the answer to the question can money buy happiness?
Yet for the professional, we can assume probably that we have warmth, food and clothing. So, can money buy happiness for the professional?
Not so much.
Here is the thing. It is great having basic needs like food, shelter and clothing met. It is great to be able to afford to go out for lunch and live in a nice home. Make no mistake about it.
Yet, money can also destroy your happiness if you let it (and debt accumulation) run your life.
The Killer Debt that Kills the Soul:
Our greater society suggests that the more money we have the happier we will be. This is a huge lie. This huge lie is continuously fed to us everyday in our economy. In fact, our economy depends on that huge lie to function.
Does our happiness increase when we buy a bigger house? A better car? A new computer? Well, we thought it would, but now we have to go to work to pay for it all.
In order to answer the question: Can money buy happiness? We need to consider the opposite. Can money and what it means to you in your life destroy your happiness.
I certainly think it can. It has, in the past, destroyed mine.
When I consider the question: can money buy happiness? I remember how stressed I have been regarding how money (and more like the accumulation of debt associated with money) has caused me great difficulty in my life. Problems with money have had a huge impact on my happiness and that of others.
The thing we do know that regardless of actual income, debt can increase a person’s chance of developing clinical depression and anxiety. So, the answer to the question, can money buy happiness, is that problems with money can buy unhappiness.
Advertising that Makes Sure Money Will Destroy Our Happiness:
No matter how much we make, we are encouraged by our advertising saturated culture to continuously consume and upscale our expenditures.
So, the trick is to stay away from consumer debt of any sort.
If we find ourselves in debt, we need to climb ourselves out of it until that is done.
How to Money Can Really Buy Happiness:
Spend our time on our love and relationships rather than working to pay for stuff.
So many people in western culture, instead of spending time creating our relationships with those we care about, we spend most of our time working to pay for the stuff we have shopped for. We then shop even more and spend more time working for the more shopping we just did and so on. We reward the continuous working we do by more shopping. And the madness continues.
If you look and see what people like Leo Babatua (Zen Habits) and Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Nonconformity) are saying (and I have a hunch they are truly happy at least a lot of the time) that we have to have less debt (or no debt) in our lives. This is the way money can buy happiness. Not that we need more of it, but that we need not to owe it.
Of course when I first looked at what Leo Babatua was saying, I thought “yeah, well it is fine for him because he is all radical about this stuff.” But when I learned more about him, he says he started out every bit as a disaster about accumulating debt and getting stressed out about it as I have.
Leo says it took discipline and being strict about getting rid of his consumer debt, but he sounds happier, and spends more time with his family.
So, can money buy happiness? Yes it can. Yet, not in the way we may think. It is more like owing it can trap you. Owing money can destroy happiness.
Rule number one:
Think of Consumer Debt as a Set of Handcuffs That Will Destroy Your Happiness, Freedom and Well-Being.
Stay away from using consumer credit. Period.
What is consumer debt? It is when you use credit to buy stuff like your car, computer, vacation etc.
If you are not disciplined enough to use credit cards and then not pay them off each month, then don’t use credit cards.
Don’t buy your car on credit. Don’t buy your computer on credit. Don’t buy your holidays on credit.
Some would say don’t even buy your house on credit.
And if you have consumer credit it. Get rid of it. Period.
Rule number two:
No Matter What Make Sure You Start Saving At Least Some of Your Money All Of the Time
Save at least something of what you make all the time (even if you are still a student and it means you save $25 per pay cheque form your part-time job).
The magic of compounding interest can work for or against you. So make it work for you. Even if you only make a little bit, save a little bit and don’t go backwards by using credit and making interest payments.
So there it is.
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Written by Val Hemminger, the non conforming professional