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Can Money Really Buy Happiness?

It's a question that fascinates and ultimately divides.

Someone holding cash that is burning

Everyone knows the saying;

'Money can't buy happiness'

Although it seems as if very few believe it. Poverty makes us miserable so it stands to reason that wealth would make life worth living. We need enough money to cover our basic needs and having an increasing salary can impact wellbeing but the impacts of generosity and building relationships need to be accounted for. This all leads to the question of whether money really can buy happiness.

A little more wouldn't go amiss

Many of us would agree that a little more money wouldn't go amiss. Studies show that money is the greatest source of anxiety amongst Britons and many spend sleepless nights due to money problems and feelings of anxiety towards money.

A study by two Nobel Laureates found that emotional wellbeing rises with income but its rises logarithmically. This basically means that as an individual's income increases, so does their wellbeing but at an increasingly slower rate. Once the income surpasses around £60,000 wellbeing stops increasing altogether suggesting that money does not equal happiness.

However, new research by Matthew Killingsworth challenges the previous findings and gives us reason to take a closer look at the relationship between money and happiness. This study suggests that happiness does not stop after an individual reaches a set income and continues to rise along with income levels.

'When you have money, you have options, and that can manifest in different ways', Matthew Killingsworth

If you’re secure, healthy, live in a good neighbourhood, and enjoy an active social life, then the figure in your account doesn’t weigh as much on your daily happiness. You’ll have your life struggles and your bad days, but financial stress doesn’t complicate those struggles as intensely and offers a way to build resilience to them.

Conversely, if you’re struggling, unhealthy, lonely, or living in a disruptive neighbourhood, then your financial straits will likely exacerbate those challenges. Indeed, they are the cause of some of those struggles. In other words, your income stops being a limiting factor in your daily happiness once it allows you to subsist and live comfortably.

Happiness is based on different criteria

According to psychology professor Sonja Lyumbomirsky, author of The How of Happiness about 50% of our happiness is actually down to our baseline happiness level, which is just something we are each born with. So ultimately, some people are just naturally happier than others. In contrast, life circumstances - which include income levels - account for just 10% of our total reported happiness.

Happiness isn't just a simple state. A mental switch that can be turned on with a simple increase in your bank account balance. It is a complex emotion influenced by various interrelated factors that include your work, health, relationships, schedule, stressors, education, personality, life philosophy, and on and on.

An article written by Saffy Adams suggest that money does not equal happiness, it explores how purchasing more things do not make us happier and that we often forget about the important things with meaning that actually make us happy.

If money doesn't make you happy, you aren't spending it right

Actor Bo Derek once claimed,

'Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping'

A few ways in which you can increase happiness through spending are:

  1. Buy more experiences and fewer goods

  2. Use money to benefit others rather than yourself

  3. Buy many small pleasures rather than fewer larger ones

  4. Delay consumption

  5. consider how peripheral features of your purchase may affect your day-to-day life

  6. Beware of comparison shopping

  7. Pay close attention to the happiness of others


We as a population are never satisfied, the more you make the more you want. And then when we get there we are still not satisfied and want for more. The more you have the less effective it is at making you happy. Many overestimate how much pleasure you will get from having more. Money can help you find happiness as long as you know what you can or cannot expect from it. It will not solve all your problems and but may help you become more satisfied if spent and used to your benefit.

Money is a medium of exchange after all. It merely stands in for the things, services, and experiences we purchase with it. So when discussing money and happiness, the question isn’t only how much you have. It’s also how you use it.

So, contrary to popular belief money can buy happiness, however it is not due the amount in your bank account but it is a direct result from your spending habits.

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