We say it to justify paying way too much for theater tickets. We say it when we take a car to the airport because it’s a lot less hassle than driving. I say it (to myself) when I’m getting my hair blown out occasionally even though I don’t have anywhere special to go.
In doing the research for my book “Women with Money: The Judgment-Free Guide To Creating The Joyful, Less-Stressed, Purposeful (And, Yes, Rich) Life You Deserve,” hundreds of women were asked, “What do you want from your money?” The consensus was that we want to maintain a certain threshold of security, stability and safety—to know that our money is, in effect, shielding us from harm. Beyond that, though, the answers expanded to include many of the things we enjoy, whether we’re spending it, saving it or giving it away.
That’s not only acceptable—that’s great. But since money is a limited resource, it’s also helpful to know how to derive the greatest amount of enjoyment from whatever you have.
Here are a few suggestions for creating enjoyment from money in the New Year:
Value Experiences Over Things
There is a bounty of research that shows we get more enjoyment when we spend our resources on experiences rather than on things. This makes sense: You get tired of many of the things in your closets and on your shelves. You want to replace them with new ones when they go out of style or are usurped by updates.
Experiences are different. You document them for social media, tell your friends about them and relive them each time you do. They, somehow get better with age, and for that reason they’re often a better place to allocate you spending. (For the record, there are some things that manifest as experiences: A painting that you look at every day, a chair that lets you lounge outdoors. Those can be solid ways to enjoy your money as well.)
Up The Social Factor
For what it’s worth, you also get more joy overall when the spending helps you build a stronger relationship either with a person or a cause you care about. That’s another reason experiences tend to resonate more than things do as solid uses of money—experiences often involve other people. Harvard Psychology Professor Michael Norton, co-author of the book “Happy Money,” confirms that spending money to strengthen relationships is (within reason) almost always a good use of money. “Take a friend out for lunch,” he suggests. “The upside of that is that she’ll probably reciprocate so you get two lunches. Humans are very reciprocal.”
Buy Yourself Some Time
There’s no question that women are time-starved. Using some money to buy yourself back some free time often equates to a big boost in enjoyment. You may be thinking—ooh, massage, manicure, yoga. Maybe, but not necessarily. Although self-care-oriented expenditures are often ones we enjoy, spending money on a housekeeper who can clean the kitchen so you don’t have to, or on a gardener so that you don’t have to weed the flowers yourself or a babysitter so that you and your BFF or significant other can catch a movie are all good ideas.
Spend on Others
There is one other way that spending has been proven to bring us joy—doing it for others. If you’ve ever watched someone open a gift that you took time to pick out specifically for them … and saw it light up their face, you know what I’m talking about. The technical term for this is “prosocial spending.” Harvard’s Norton and some of his colleagues ran an experiment where they gave participants a small sum of money (some people got $5, others got $20). They directed half the subjects to spend the money on themselves and half to spend the money on someone else. At the end of the day, the people who spent on others felt happier than those who bought or did something for themselves. And interestingly, though people thought they would be happier spending more money, the amount didn’t matter at all. (Which means: It is the thought that counts!)
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