This blog post is in response to the TED talk “How To Buy Happiness” by Michael Norton. It can be found here : https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_norton_how_to_buy_happiness?language=en.
A couple of days ago, my friends and I sat around and debated this exact subject. Does having more money necessarily make you more happy?
Certainly, there is a baseline need that must be fulfilled first. This can be provided by money. Having enough money to keep one clothed, fed, in a safe home, etc. directly correlates with one’s happiness. It is not until one has these things that the debate can even become relevant. In fact, since the assumption money cannot buy happiness comes from this place of little need, it is an assumption based in privilege.
Once the baseline is met, that’s when we can really start looking at whether or not money can buy happiness. This is all relative. Having enough money to live where one wants or do the job one wants will make you happy. Donating money to charity, according to this video, is proven to make one happier. Spending money on experiences for oneself like traveling or going to a concert can also make you happier (http://www.wsj.com/articles/can-money-buy-happiness-heres-what-science-has-to-say-1415569538). Of course, there is the fleeting sense of pleasure from treating oneself to a new sweater or a tub of ice cream. However, science finds these to be less likely to bring one lasting happiness.
Spending money on charities is, according to studies, the best way to get happiness from money. However, you can also donate your time and skills to charity for the same effect. Studies also found that the amount of money donated doesn’t matter all that much. It can be $5 or $1000, it brings the same reward of pleasure. We all don’t need to be rich to contribute to the world around us.
So can money buy you happiness? Up to a certain point and then only when spent in certain ways. Meet the baseline first. Then go treat others. Donate to a charity. Buy a present for a friend or take them out somewhere and have an experience together. If you want, you can even use the money to invest in yourself by expanding your worldview through travel.
I’ll end this the same way Michael Norton does, with an ad for a charity that seems abrupt and slightly awkward. Project For Awesome is coming up this December 8-9. During P4A, thousands of people on Youtube upload videos promoting their favorite charities. Voting on charities occurs while money is raised online and then the top voted charities receive grants. Last year’s grand total donated was $1,546,384! If you have the money, consider contributing to Project for Awesome or one of the charities featured in a P4A video this December. Science says it’ll make you happier. Let me know if it works.