Can money buy some happiness? In my case, YES.

One extremely important and interesting happiness question is the relationship between money and happiness.

On the question of whether money buys happiness, I believe the answer is: It depends.

It depends on the nature of your personality. (Do you have a passion for collecting art or for renting movies? Do you yearn to have your own horse or your own cat?)
It depends on how you spend your money. (Is your money buying cocaine or college? Are you splurging on a convenient gym or a dining room table?)
It depends on how much money you have relative to the people around you, and relative to your own experience. (Are you richer or poorer than most of your friends and family? do you have more or less than you did in the past?)

There are so many aspects to this issue, but it seems to me that because most people scoff (or pretend to scoff) at the idea that money can buy happiness, they don’t spend enough time thinking about how to spend money toward happiness.

Put aside the question of whether to spend money on stuff, or experiences, or health, etc. For now, just think about STUFF.

The fact is, sometimes just the mere possession of some STUFF does give you a big jolt of happiness. (What’s more, sometimes the mere purchase of some stuff gives you something that feels an awful lot like happiness, temporarily – a fact that warrants far greater examination, I think.)

Maybe this shouldn’t be true. But for many people, it is true.

The trick is to know how to spend your money wisely. Some purchases will give you great joy, others are a waste in terms of happiness bang for the buck.

My resolutions include “Think about what happiness money could buy,” “Make purchases that will further my goals—family, friends, work, etc.” and “Indulge in a modest splurge.”

So last week I did something that I’ve been meaning to do since the Big Girl was born. I called the famous children’s bookstore in New York City, Books of Wonder, and ordered the “Wizard’s Super Special—Oz Set #4.” This is the complete set of the fifteen Oz books by L. Frank Baum.

Now that I’ve admitted to myself my deep passion for children’s literature, I no longer pretend to be buying these books for my daughters. I’m buying them for ME.

Yesterday, they arrived in all their glory. They have a lovely unified design, hard-backs, with matching spines and heavy paper. Gorgeous covers with the original illustrations. Color illustrations inside. Fanciful border drawings. Different books have different special touches: the anniversary edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has gilded pages, one book has colored pages as the characters travel through the different colored lands of Oz, another has color used in interesting ways on the pages. (Aha, I see that I am very interested in the GRAPHIC DESIGN!)
Wizardoz

I thought I’d only read five or six of these books, but once I looked at them, I realized I had read and re-read all of them – but the library books weren’t nearly as nice as these books.

I haven’t even put them up on a shelf yet. I’ve left them in a big pile on the table, because I get a thrill of happiness each time I see them. (See photo at top.)

Now, happiness experts might argue that I’ll adapt to my purchase. Soon, I’ll be accustomed to owning these books, they’ll sit on a shelf and gather dust, and I’ll be no better off than I was before.

I disagree. Because I have a real passion for children’s literature, I feel confident that these will give me a boost every time I see them. After all, I have a big stack of the old, beat-up, beloved Cricket magazines I had as a child, and those still make me happy, too.

The secret – as in all happiness matters – is to know yourself, and to choose wisely.Glindaoz2

*
Speaking of Kurt Vonnegut…I was surprised by how moved I was by a visit to his website.

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  • http://www.reddeerblog.com eduardo

    and of course, having money means you are in a better position to give to others. Giving leads to a higher level of happiness as seen on the ‘Hierarchy of Happiness’ seen here
    http://www.reddeerblog.com/2007/04/hierarchy-of-happiness
    Others are always trying to make us feel guilty for having money. Money is neither good nor bad, it just is..

  • Erik

    When I was a child in the 1970s I devoured the Oz books, reading all the Baums (and some of the later volumes by Ruth Plumly Thompson) over and over again, in copies my mother had saved from her childhood in the 1940s. They really fired my imagination. It’s great to hear there’s an anniversary edition.
    (I loved Cricket, too.)

  • http://papernapkin.typepad.com Sheryl

    Funny you should mention this. I just bought a book I loved as a kid (now out of print). A tiny little golden book that was originally $.25. I paid $8, but I am happy I found it.

  • http://www.kstyle-style.blogspot.com kstyle

    Yes there is a lot of info in the graphic design world. Don’t let that scare you. If I could do it so can you. I had that same artistic desire but lacked the patience for more traditional art disciplines. With graphic design the computer speeds things up and often acts as my hands. The process is faster and the results more immediate. To get started you might take a photoshop elements or photoshop CS class. There is much fun to be had in photoshop and it will support your blogging beautifully. I use it everyday for Kstyle.
    And also as per your wonderful post. I took a children’s lit class in college and I still remember that one day the prof brought in her internationaal collection of the folktale “Little Red Riding Hood” trtanslated in every concievable language. One of the coolest collections I have ever seen. k

  • http://www.88888888.se Mattias Johansson

    Hmmm.
    Money/stuff/happiness.
    I got a strong intial thought when reading this blog post and I have a bit of a hard time formulating it…
    But I guess that money can buy you stuff that give you happiness if you know how to enjoy HAVING that stuff, instead of just getting it. I, myself, keep getting surprised how som purchases make me happy in the long term (my nice, beautiful apartment and it’s furniture) and some purchases that felt great when I made them in the spur of the moment (I bought a Nintendo Wii when I broke up with my girlfriend) but that the allure of the ting quickly waned.
    In a sense, the difference between the purchases was that in the first case, I had asked “Will this thing really make me happier, or is it just the act of aquiring/satisfying desire that drives me to buy it?”
    So, buying stuff that genuinely makes you happy is good. Buying stuff to primarily silence desire, bad.
    Perhaps.

  • http://lifeasdaddy.typepad.com/ Bob Meade

    Apparently Mr. Vonnegut drew the empty birdcage pic himself, to be posted on the website after his death.
    On money and happiness, I’ve long agreed with Dickens’ Mr. Micawber that, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
    Enough money to buy what you need and want? Good chance you’ll be happy. Not enough? Doubt you’ll be happy.
    Certainly Gretchen, discrimination in the purchases goes a long way in buying things which can give longer lasting happiness.
    I like what you say about admitting buying certain chidren’s books is for your satisfaction. And I like how you intensify that satisfaciton by putting them in a place you’ll enjoy for longer.
    That reminds me too of something I read about the toy industry. There’s a category of toys which they call nostalgia. The toys which parents (and others) love to buy for children, not because the children may like them, but because they remind the adult of their own childhood.
    Books can be like that too.

  • http://thedailypositive.com Andy Schmitt

    Yes! This really got me thinking and I have been wanting to write something about money and happiness for a while and this gives me some great inspiration! Money can buy some happiness! Don’t depend on it for happiness but use it as a tool to inspire, motivate, reward, etc…
    Stay Positive!
    Andy