In keeping with my New Year’s resolutions, I have been trying to read at least one book every 2 weeks. The first book of the year was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen spends a year putting into action different ideas and philosophies with the goal of being a happier person by the end of the year. She picks different parts of her life to work on every month including relationships, work habits, experiences and attitude. What a great way to start the year. I mean, who doesn’t want to be happier, right?

While singing in the morning and trying to laugh more are worthy goals that would make anyone smile more, I want to focus on the monetary aspect of happiness. My mother always used to tell me that money doesn’t buy happiness, but I tend to disagree with this. Sorry Mom.

Now, since Gretchen is already at a place in her life where she is fiscally well off and working a job that she loves, she takes the approach from a day-to day activity point of view. She focuses on ideas like ‘buying needful things.’ What this means is that if there is something that can improve your quality of life either by saving you an inconvenience or time, then it is worth the price.  Interestingly enough, she finds herself be too frugal, calling herself an “underbuyer,” and that it is hard to spend, even on things that are useful.  This will mean something different to every person. To me, it could be that my workout shoes are falling apart and instead of dealing with them, I should spend the money on good quality shoes since I workout 4-5 times per week.  For Gretchen this meant making sure that they weren’t down to the last roll of toilet paper before buying more.  While this is a great idea to improve the day to day aspects of life (and never leaves you without toilet paper), I really loved how this chapter got me thinking about how money can influence happiness on a much larger scale.

Hate Your Job? Quit.

Money is a tool that can be used any way you see fit. If you build a life that is centered around making yourself happy, then money will buy you happiness. Financial Independence (aka financial freedom) is the perfect example of this. If you are unhappy with your job, you can use your savings, or Fuck you money as Mr. J L Collins refers to it, to quit working, take a lower paying job that does make you happy, start a business or anything else that may interest you. There are hundreds of possibilities and the choice is all up to you once you have the resources to back yourself up.

If you are in the position where you truly hate your work, I’d like you to try to think about it this way: You can save to get yourself out of a job that makes you miserable or spend to make yourself temporarily happy with a new scarf, phone or other doodad. Get some Fuck you money and buy yourself some happiness.

Create a Financial Buffer

Staving off crisis is another way that money can buy you happiness. If you’ve ever had to live paycheck to paycheck, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  Specifically, I’m speaking on having an emergency fund. This money is not only important for your financial health, but your mental health as well. The amount of stress on the body when you are down to your last few dollars is unsustainable.  No one is meant to live under that kind of constant pressure. Having an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses in a savings account or even $1,000 or a few hundred dollars as a buffer can relieve this stress.

The effects of having an emergency fund like this on your stress level may not be obvious at first, but when your car breaks down, you will be so happy to have your financial buffer to help.

Be Grateful for What You Have

The Happiness Project is filled with little known quotes that will give you pause.  Here is one of my favorites:

There are times in the lives of most of us, when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us as unappreciated and unenjoyed. ~ William Edward Hartpole Lecky

Taking the time to appreciate where you are in life is something everyone can use a reminder to do every once in a while.  Not only will this make you happier; it will make you wealthy.  If you appreciate where you are and what you have, there is no need to run out to buy a bunch of new stuff to fill a void or replace last year’s model of the same thing.  You just enjoy the things and people around you as they are now.  After all, learning to be happy with where you are now while using money as the tool to build yourself and your family a better future is what it’s all about, right?

I loved reading this book.  It was thoughtful, funny and insightful.  A wonderful way to start off the new year.  I hope you all take the time to read it and that it inspires you to think about your own happiness and appreciate life as it is right now.

Have you read this book?  What did you think? Are there any other books that made you think about money’s influence on your happiness?  Leave a note in the comments!