By GREGORY KARP
If you have a few extra bucks that you don’t need for necessities like rent or loan payments, consider shopping for happiness.
From ancient philosophers to current behaviorists, people have been pondering the link between money and happiness. Among them is author Gretchen Rubin, who thinks about happiness for a living. She’s written several books on happiness, including “The Happiness Project” and the forthcoming “Outer Order, Inner Calm.”
She helped think through the question of whether you can use discretionary money to buy happiness. Short answer: probably not. But you can definitely spend money to increase it. A lifetime happiness shopping list might go like this.
n Buy better relationships. It’s a recurring theme. “So if you’re spending your money to broaden relationships, that’s a good way to spend money,” Rubin said. Use discretionary money to attend a college reunion or a friend’s destination wedding. Young adults often experience an intense period of socializing, searching for life partners and networking for career opportunities — all potential sources of happiness. Maybe increase bar-and-restaurant spending or pay for a dating app.
n Buy experiences — and some things. The usual advice is “buy experiences, not things.” But that requires a deeper dive. “What I find is often the line between experiences and things is not that clear,” Rubin said. A bicycle can provide an experience, and a new camera can preserve one. So buy experiences, especially with other people, but also think about buying material things to enhance your experiences.
n Buy solutions. Also known as “throw money at the problem.” “One thing that makes people happier is to feel they have control over their time and they’re not doing boring chores,” Rubin said. So that could mean paying someone else to do yardwork or using a full-service laundry. It’s the balancing act of money vs. time. If you have a little extra money, buy back time by paying for convenience.
n Buy discipline. Want to improve your diet or fitness but have trouble summoning motivation? Use your money. That might mean choosing a pricier gym that’s more convenient or even hiring a personal trainer to add accountability. At the supermarket, it could mean buying healthy foods that are more convenient, like bagged salad. “If you can make it easier to get yourself to do something you want to do, that’s a good way to spend your money,” Rubin said.
n Buy stress relief. Is there a simple fix for recurring arguments or sources of stress, especially with a significant other? If you argue about a messy home, can you afford maid service? Or, can you afford not to get maid service? “The question is always, ‘Is it cheaper than marriage counseling?’ ” Rubin quipped.