Have you ever heard the expression, “Money can’t make you happy,” and secretly thought to yourself, “Yeah, but I sure wouldn’t mind giving it a try!”? I know I have.
The idea behind this well-known expression is that happiness is something that can’t be bought. No matter how much money you acquire it won’t increase your happiness.
But I’m not sure that’s entirely true. There are two ways I think money CAN make you happy.
The first way is having enough money to provide for your basic needs. Things like food, water, shelter, and clothing are what I mean. When we have enough to provide for ourselves and our families in these areas, money in savings, debt paid off, and money set aside for when we’re older we have peace of mind. And peace of mind makes us happy.
But we all know of people who have money for all these things and so much more, but still aren’t happy. That’s where the second way comes in.
The second way money can make us happy is when use it to help others.
Recently the New York Post did an article on how people who donate to charity are much happier and healthier than people who don’t. In the article experts cited statistics about how when you give to a good cause, a cause that you feel connected to and care about, not only will it increase your happiness but it will also lower your blood pressure too.
Elizabeth Dunn, one of the psychologists interviewed for the article, said:
“People who donate money to charity are happier in poor and rich countries alike. You don’t have to have a lot to experience the emotional benefits of giving.”
Money can make you happy when you use it to meet your needs and help meet the needs of others.
Giving to others gives our life significance. When we do something that helps someone it adds value to our life because we’ve added value in their life.. And it’s in that giving where we can “buy” happiness.
One of the things I love about being a parent is giving gifts to my kids. I love how their face lights up when they open something my wife and I have gotten them. I love to see them play with it, have fun, and really enjoy it. Seeing them enjoy something I’ve gotten for them brings me joy.
If you’re a parents you can probably relate to what I’m saying. But you don’t have to wait to have kids to experience what I’m talking about. You can experience that right now.
By giving to someone you get joy, happiness, and meaning from the act. And it doesn’t have to be extravagant or really expensive.
It can be as simple as buying a cup of coffee for a friend or for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. It can be buying your wife that new dress or keurig she’s had her eye on. It can be taking a co-worker out to lunch to say thank you for helping you with a big project or even just because. Or buying a meal for someone who is homeless and spending a few minutes eating and talking with them. It can even be as simple as buying a friend their favorite candy and leaving it for them on their counter or in their mailbox (just make sure it’s not something that’ll melt on a hot day).
You don’t have to sell everything you own and never buy anything nice for yourself again. You just have to be willing to let go of a few things from time to time.
You may need to give up that cup of coffer or going out to lunch once or twice a week. Or you may need to cut back on your cable plan and maybe just subscribe to Netflix or Hulu Plus. You may have to hold off on buying that new shirt or pair of jeans you’ve wanted for a little bit.
But those things, as nice as they aren’t, won’t bring you the kind of happiness that giving to others will. There are few joys greater than bringing joy into the lives of others.
At the end of the day all of our stuff will wear out, break, and fade. Everything you own now you will someday replace and throw away because it will no longer be useful. Why not give it away now while it’s still useful can bring you happiness by making someone else happy?
Keeping what you have to yourself won’t make you happy. But when you meet your needs and help to meet the needs of others you will actually get something more valuable than the thing you gave away in the first place: happiness, joy, and significance.
Money can’t make you happy when you only spend it on yourself. But it can make you happy when you spend it on others too.