Funding Happiness

It wasn’t until semi-recently that I started making happiness a deliberate goal of mine. Before that, happiness wasn’t something I kept track of, it was just something that pleasantly showed up at events like birthday parties and good first dates. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy but I certainly could have been happier.

One day that changed. I started studying happiness. I started with research papers and eventually moved to introspection. What made me happy? There were lots of things; friends, family, adventures and awesome food were just at the beginning of the list. Eventually I realized that my wallet was not aligned with my happiness. I looked at my budget for the prior month at Mint.com and realized my priorities were off. What would happen if I deliberately changed how I spent my money in order to optimize for happiness? Would I be able to fund happiness?

Searching for the Answer (When Google Is Not Enough)

First I had to identify what exactly made me happy. I started with the simple things. Time with good friends made me happy. I knew that. Ice cream made me happy. Time with good friends AND ice cream also made me happy but not necessarily happier. (I had discovered the happiness cap). I knew crazy adventures made me happy but realized that if I planned them entirely out, that it eliminated the crazy part and didn’t make me as happy. This is when I discovered a key takeaway. I realized it was the unplanned little pleasures that made me happy. I was onto something but wasn’t sure how to apply this new learning.

Wait Wait Wait, But I Thought Money Can’t Buy You Happiness!

That is true to a degree but I think there is a loophole. Money can’t buy you macro-happiness (things like love and self respect) but it sure as hell can buy you micro-happiness (little things that make you smile on a daily basis). I have mentioned before on this blog that I take part of each of my paychecks and put it into an account solely for my life list. I do this because I know that the unplanned mini-adventures of traveling (foreign grocery stores, weird subway rides, crazy food) make me happy as long as I cover three logistical points (lodging, travel and event/place cost) odds are I will be happy during the adventure.

I also know that I can double the impact of my efforts if I enable a friend to come with me (by this I don’t mean pay for them, I simply mean invite them to join and say I will cover the planning.) In doing so, it will increase my happiness as well as their happiness.

So Is It Possible to Fund Happiness?

Of course it is! The first step is take the old idea of a rainy day fund and better align it with the little things that make you happy. Instead of trying to fund a week long vacation that will take place “some day in the future”, use the same funds to make you a little happier everyday.

Step 1: Identify the little things that make you happy

Example list:

  • Ice cream
  • Big mugs
  • New socks
  • Fresh fruit (Peaches, Plumbs, Pears)
  • Big blankets
  • Driving out of your way to see a friend
  • Camping/Hiking
  • Good Jeans
  • Fast Internet

Step 2: Set aside a small amount of your paycheck (less than 1%) and give yourself permission to spend it on the little things from the list above. Your future self will thank you for it.

That’s it! The next time you pass that ice cream parlor and you feel that craving, you can eat mint chocolate chip guilt free. You have already budgeted for your happiness. All you need to worry about is smiling.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Totally agree with setting aside a small amount of money for the little things you enjoy. For me its cappuccino, red wine, trashy magazines and shoes!

  • kevin

    Less than 1%? So each month I can buy 1 pair of socks and a peach :(

    • Just make sure it is really good peach :-)

  • My goal is to spend less than 1% on the things that make me UNhappy (speeding tickets, dentist visits) and the other 99%+ of my money on things that make me happy (read: liquor).

  • 1% sounds pretty low. Maybe 5% would be a better budget for happiness things :)

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