The title, "Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending", gave me the impression that this was another book about clipping coupons and recycling cereal boxes. Cynically, I opened it up.
The first sentence of the prologue shattered that preconception immediately. This book aims squarely for the "money can't buy happiness" idiom, with the idea that it can...if utilized properly.
Not in the usual ways, either. It's not necessarily how much you spend, or saving tons of cash for a rainy day so you feel more secure about the future.
There are five principles that can lead to monetary happiness:
1. Buy Experiences
2. Make it a Treat
3. Buy Time
4. Pay Now, Consume Later
5. Invest in Others
"Buy Experiences" essentially means to spend money on memorable experiences instead of expensive toys, because you are able to relate to those experiences on an emotional level for much longer that with objects.
I had actually utilized this concept myself recently. I had come into a small inheritance, and instead of paying down bills like we had originally planned, we splurged on our first real family vacation to the beach. My son still talks about going back, and thoughts of that time together still spark warm feelings.
"Make It A Treat" focuses on the concept of overconsumption creating a weakening of the enjoyment factor. If you have something every day, even if it's something you love, it becomes routine rather than fully enjoyable.
I discovered this when for budgeting reasons, I stopped buying coffee house specialty drinks and made coffee at home. Once in a while I'd get a gift card or decide to splurge, and those moments took me back to the first time I'd tasted one, and it was always an amazing sensation. They explain why that is in detail, and it's fascinating. I plan to apply this to other aspects of my life, now that I'm aware of it.
"Buy Time": The idea that you make life decisions that allow you to have more free time. I'm a busy mom, so Multitask is my middle name. Suggestions include outsourcing unnecessary tasks, like housecleaning. Much as I'd love to do that, it's not possible. But I do have an example of my own.
We instituted "Takeout Wednesdays", where my husband is responsible for bringing home dinner every Wednesday. That gives me free time I can plan on, and lets me get things done AND get down time.
"Pay Now, Consume Later" was a fascinating concept. In society today, we're more apt to do the reverse, thanks to credit cards. Essentially, it's sort of like half the fun of a roadtrip is getting there. When consummation is delayed, from something as simple as eating candy to attending an event, the enjoyment is increased. When something's already paid for, if enough time passes, it seems "free" when it's actually consumed.
I've personally seen this in action when I backorder things online, like books, video games and DVDs. It's almost like a prize coming in the mail, because the actual payment process is dim in my memory. I've also stashed candy away for until the kids are asleep, and it always tastes even better then. (Don't judge me. (.:)
Last concept: Invest In Others. This hits on how donating or spending money on others feels better than buying things for yourself. I totally got with this chapter, because I deal with that scenario all the time.
An example: Recently, I had a friend give me two free product coupons for a very expensive brand of bread. I was picking mine out, and a lady next to me mentioned she loved it, but it was too expensive. I tapped her on the shoulder and gave her one of the coupons. The free item would have given me pleasure, but giving it away gave me a great feeling that still lingers.
Toys and goodies are great, but doing onto others is incredible.
This was an easy and fun read...I liked the authors' (Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton) writing style. It reminded me of sitting around with friends over coffee and chatting. I had never read anything like it, and really thought it was original.
I already embrace these principles on some level, but look forward to applying them to more of my life choices, and seeing my money make me happier. It'll have a permanent place on my bookshelf...and in my bathroom! (But that's another chapter.)
I received a complimentary copy from BzzAgent in exchange for my review.