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When you arrive at your future, will you blame your past?

Robert Half

Life Coaching

Building Focus, Energy & Courage - to Make a Better Life for You
Can you Really Buy Happiness?
Popular wisdom says "no", and the wags add "but you can be miserable in real comfort". In the sense that money cannot usually provide a sense of purpose or belonging or love, then I agree - money can't provide those things. But in the sense that money can remove financial misery, can provide pleasant surroundings, security, wonderful experiences, adventure and comfort - in that sense, money can make our moment-by-moment experiences of life far nicer.
And if life is a sea of moments (and it is - I checked - see here), then yes - I say money can buy you happiness.

Is The Best Price a Good Price?

I'm willing to bet that when you're buying stuff, you're looking for value for money. You don't want to pay more than you need to for anything. And in fact, most of us define value for money in terms of relative pricing - getting a good deal. We look for good deals on the things which society thinks we need.

Let's look more carefully at money in the context of our lives.

Money is Power

Money is literally power - the power to make things happen in the world. It can make food appear, it can put us in a nice house, and so on. Each time you buy something, you exchange some power for some stuff. After that, you have some new stuff - and less power. Many of us will end each month powerless - so it's a finite resource - and we always wish we had more.

Burning the Sacred Cow

The main point in this article is this - given our basic survival needs covered, it seems sensible to ask the question:

Am I using the power
I have in my money
to make my life
as happy as I can?

So instead of asking "am I getting the best price for this?" ask "Is this what I should spend my money on?". It invites us to step back from those societal norms and re-examine where our unhappinesses are (very un-British!) and to consider what we might do with our limited resources (money) to address those areas.

Another way to put it is that you're doing a "cost/benefit analysis", where the benefit is measured by how happy the stuff we purchased makes us. This breaks down into fundamental questions:

    1. Where am I less happy?
    2. How could I use the power in my money to improve things?
    3. What power/money can I divert from less productive spending
      to improve my happiness further?

Here are some exercises for you to play with. Before you start, please try hard to adopt a fun-loving, dis-respectful view of your life. Think the un-thinkable, question the "obvious". Be happy with tinkering.

  1. List your monthly expenses in descending order of size. Usually mortgage and car payments are at the top, then work your way down. Now examine them starting at the top. For each item assign a score out of 10 for how happy that expense makes you. Ask yourself if the happiness delivered is justified by that expense. If it isn't then you just found some power to use in happying up your life elsewhere.
  2. When you get home from your weekly shop, review your bill over a relaxing cup or a glass of something nice. What do you spend most on? Does the happiness delivered justify the power you lost in acquiring it?
  3. If you don't keep good records of your spending, do so for a month! One really easy way is to put as much as you can on a card, and then your monthly statement will contain all the tracking you need.
  4. Come at it from the other direction - instead of looking at how you spend your money, look at an area of unhappiness, and ask how money could help it. Estimate the amount you'll need, then make it happen - find that money from elsewhere in your budget.

I know from experience that describing the technique seldom gets it done, so here are some practical examples from my practice of how this new thinking makes real lives more happy.

  • Do you subscribe to anything which you haven't used for a while which renews without your thinking about it? National trust? Golf club? Magazine? RSPB? Gym? Something online? If you ain't going to use it - lose it! Mostly, you can claim back your fee pro-rata. When Jackie realised it would be cheaper to cancel her gym subscription and pay the visit rate, she saved £45 each month, which she spends on a regular dinner slot re-building her relationship with her ole mum.
  • Have you got the best deal on the things you want to keep paying for? Your utilities - gas, electricity, water, Sky, VirginMedia, BT, your mobile phone contract etc. Most companies track the market with competitive "introductory rates" then allow existing customers to get an increasingly poor deal. Call them up - ask them what they can do for you; suggest you might leave. Gemma was astonished to free up about £150 of power each month doing this, with no loss of anything whatsoever! In October this 4 hour chore will have contributed £900 to her dream world cruise. These days comparison websites make it really easy to find the best deals in moments.
  • Are you a shopping snob? My client Paul is well-off but over-stretched (very common - we never have enough money). Tesco's Finest all the way for him until we did this work, and he realised that Sarson's vinegar is three times the price, that salt in a sack is just as good when you pour it into a pot, and that - whilst budget baked beans are the pits - budget ketchup rocks, and so on. Through common sense savings, and by shopping elsewhere for some goods, and by not throwing food away, his monthly saving came to about £105, which he used to help build his pension fund which was a source of worry for Paul now removed.
  • Kelly isn't well-off, but has a huge library because she reads a lot. By borrowing instead of buying when she could, she saved about £50 a month which she now happily lavishes on her passion for gardening. This is guilt-free for her, because it effectively free.
  • Selling to strangers is a great way to "liquidate your assets" - to turn them into money/power and thence happiness. Car boot sales are one way to do this, another is to sell things online - at Amazon or Ebay. In a little under a year, Roy has sold £400 of redundant camera equipment and bought ... some new camera equipment! Roy loves his cameras, and this allowed him to get what he wanted within his budget.
  • Car expenses are seldom small, and when Carrie realised her aging car cost her £2,500 in maintenance the previous year, she decided to sell it - making money - and to not replace it - saving ongoing expense. By juggling things around the family now copes comfortably on one car. The slightly reduced convenience was more than justified by the cash injection which Carrie used to clear a worrying debt - a huge boost to her happiness. And the monthly spending on transport was now £200 lower, and this has allowed Carrie to keep her budget cleanly off the breadline, month after month; her world is a much happier one.
  • Now you might suspect my motives here, but it is my honest personal view, that the most powerful way most people can buy happiness is to buy some life coaching. When it comes to improving human lives, nothing works anywhere near as well as life coaching. And when you employ these money-saving ideas, from me to you - no charge - you may find you can get your ongoing personal coaching effective for free too.

I hope you can make it work for you. Buy some happiness today!


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