Use your money to buy happiness

The younger you are, the more likely you are to believe that more money is the key to happiness. This is why, in my experience, many confident 20-year-old college boy wants to go into investment banking. And it’s why we work like machines or hamsters in a wheel in our 30s and 40s.

Readers of my blog do know that I like to check in with those age-experienced to “fast-forward” my learning on what is really important in life. Because there certainly is a gap between what we think our goals are when we’re young and what we wish our goals were when we’re older.

Well, those with the most life experience think that this money focus is just crazy.

It isn’t that money is unimportant to elderly. They just wished they spent their lives rather in jobs they enjoyed and found purposeful than in presumably high-paying ones.

Truth is, it is not about more money. It is all about what you do with your money.

And people who say you can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop and – especially – what to shop for.

When it comes to spending that money, most of us just follow our intuitions. But those intuitions are often wrong.

Experiences – It’s a buy

The best things in life aren’t things.

Money can buy happiness through experiences

Just one of many studies that do confirm this over and over again

Understanding why experiences provide more happiness than material goods can help us to choose the most satisfying kinds of experiences that ideally meet the following criteria:

  • The experience brings you together with other people, fostering a sense of social connection.
  • The experience makes a memorable story that you’ll enjoy retelling for years to come because of its emotional values.
  • The experience is tightly linked to your sense of who you are or want to be.
  • The experience provides a unique opportunity, eluding easy comparison with other available options.


Caution: Generally we overestimate how happy good things will make us feel and how unhappy bad things will make us feel. In fact, we’re often not even aware of how we’re actually feeling in the present moment.
This is just yet another argument for not pursuing happiness for its own sake.

Happiness is not a pursuit, it’s a practice. We don’t become happy by focusing on happiness, by pursuing it. We can choose to focus instead on what is true, what is good, what is right, what has meaning for you – and happiness follows.

I guess, happiness requires some wisdom about big things, but childishness with the small things (prioritizing the little things that make us happy and stopping wasting money on the little things that don’t). Wisdom about our own ‘why’ first instead of spending energy on the ‘hows’ dictated by society.

And finally:

Are we really able to control what we do with all that happiness if we actually achieve it?


“Quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.” – Tom Waits


How to get the biggest happiness bang for you buck? Some more ideas can be found here and here.


  1. Hi Andy,

    Great post and I can’t agree more with you that experiential purchase is much more impactful than the materials purchase (when come to getting into the “happiness flow”).

    I guess the main “issue” with experiential purchase is that we cannot quantify it and hence its perceived value varied from person to person.

    • … and that is a good thing. If we all would perceive the same value in experiences, most of our personal favorite experiences would stop being our favorites as they would be ‘too crowded’!

  2. Hi Andy

    Great piece.

    From the Scripture: ‘I have learnt the secret of being content’

    • Thank you, Fred.
      More of us should spend time on finding and defining one’s own level of “enoughism”.

      “He who knows he has enough is rich.” – Lao Tzu

  3. Andy,

    Its always nice to read your posts on philosophies of life 🙂

    Sometimes life is a lot messier than a straight line extrapolation.

    I lost count how many time I’ve moved my ladder…

    Climb up the steps, realised not what I want, climb steps down, move ladder to lean on another wall, climb up steps up again.

    Opps! I don’t like. Rinse and repeat.

    Now I just lie down on the floor and look at the ceiling.

    Oh look! There’s a hairline crack.


    • Jared, that’s the way to do it. Change your mind when the facts change or our priorities change.

      I do observe many fellows who frantically climb up ladders that have too many steps in the first place and are leaning against the wrong walls.

      All prosperity begins in our head. Action is last. Action must come from the knowing that you are on your way up the right ladder. Then enjoy the climb.

      So now, what are you going to do about that hairline crack, Jared?

      My ceiling has a huge hairline crack too. I decided to categorize it as a design feature. All is good.

      • Andy,

        In my younger days, I would get upset if a pimple or two appeared on my face.

        My ears too too “forward”, my teeth not straight or white enough, my eyes too small…

        Now? Liver spots, age spots, wrinkles, warts and all – I treat them like you’ve said, “design feature” that makes me unique – just like what I was telling to customers when I were selling leather sofas at IMM.

        REAL leather have scratch streaks and bite marks.

        Leather “too pristine” is probably 100% genuine synthetic leather.


      • Jared, unique and different is better than better nowadays.

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