Money Can't Buy Happiness - Or Can It?

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What would you do if you won the lottery? Would you buy everything you dream about? Would you take your once-in-a-lifetime vacation, buy your ideal palace, or even start the business you’ve had in your mind’s eye for years?

Even if you win the lottery, the chances are you won’t become that much happier. Studies show that happiness reaches it’s limit at around $75,000 (in the US, at least). Meaning once you earn enough to be “comfortable” (whatever comfort is for you – all your bills are paid, you have money to put away for savings and to buy the things you want), your happiness quotient is satisfied.

How You Spend It

So, if you do win the lottery, you’ll likely be somewhat happier, but not to the scale that most people think. In fact, many people that do win the lottery end up more UNhappy than happy. Because they blow the money on extravagant items they think will bring them happiness and they cut themselves off from friends and family who beg for money.

Now the biggest winner is the biggest loser. No friends. No family. No more money.

Did all the things they thought they wanted bring them happiness?


They didn’t have to buy anything to be happy.

They should have helped others with it, if they wanted happiness.

Giving It Away

Yep. Giving away your money to others will buy you happiness.

Does that mean that you have to give away all your money to others to be happy? No. It means that you take care of yourself, but in the end you concern yourself with the well-being of others, too – rather than trying to amass more stuff or more money.

You see, author of “Happy Money: The Science of Spending”, Michael Norton and his co-author, Elizabeth Dunn, conducted extensive experiments to find out how people’s happiness was effected by money.

The Experiment

Originally, they started on University of British Columbia campus – handing out envelopes with money and instructions on how to spend it. Some were asked to spend it on themselves. The others were asked to spend it on others.

In the end, what they discovered at UBC – and all across the globe – is that money does bring happiness when it is used to bring others happiness.

Lottery, or free money from Michael Norton aside, you can make yourself happier today by giving to others – in big or small ways.

Buy Your Happiness Right Now

  • Give to charity. Choose a charity you feel strongly about and give what you can – $5 or $500 – anything helps you and them.
  • Give stock notes as a gift to your friends or family members. Want to give financially to them, but aren’t sure if they’ll throw the money away? Give them a stock note instead. Let them watch it earn for them.
  • Pay for the couple’s check at the next table when you go out to eat. Tonight when you’re out with your family, teach your kids the value of good deeds and pay the check for the table beside you.
  • Sponsor an orphan. With the rate of exchange, a small amount for you, may mean the difference between destitution and survival for a needy child in a third world country. Talk about a moral boost. (TIP: Research organizations well before committing to one – make sure the one you choose has a high success rate and look for proof that your money is going where you intend for it to.)
  • Sponsor the gift of education. By paying for a financial ed course that will help someone become a master of his own finances. Learning money ropes can really boost someone’s effort to better their financial situation, investigate online courses that offer a reputable mentor or seek out classes at the local university or community college.
  • Don’t ignore the homeless guy on the corner, buy him a meal. Giving money may encourage him to buy something other than the food he needs, but offering him a meal of substance can help him survive another night in the cold. (If you want to really make him excited and you have enough “superfluous” cash, put him up in a hotel for the night.)
  • Pay someone’s water bill. If you know someone that’s struggling to make ends meet, then help them out by paying a bill for them.
  • Sponsor a year or a half of a year gym membership for your neighbor. Don’t discount this a mere vanity sponsorship. Health is a gift that adds to the overall quality of life and your small contribution may encourage them to stay on a healthy course and help them keep themselves healthy.
  • Provide dinner at a nursing home. Doesn’t seem like much, but to residents who see the same four walls and the same faces everyday, they will love seeing you and will appreciate the good quality food you bring – instead of the institutional food they have to endure daily.
  • Help a friend start a business. Your friend has had her eye on a business venture, but hasn’t been able to get her cashflow going. You can help her by giving to her startup – giving her the incentive to see her dream through.

You can’t buy happiness by buying more stuff – for yourself. But you can buy happiness when you help someone else.

What ways have you helped someone else? How did you feel after?

Author Bio: Julian Hearn runs, a money-saving community that promotes social saving, which includes a personal finance blog.

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