By Guest Blogger Alex Conde
There are a lot of thoughts on this subject. Some people point to happy billionaires and other point to happy beggars in the third world.
I still think though, after all these years, one of the wisest quotes on this subject was written by the author Charles Dickens in his book David Copperfield:
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
Charles Dickens highlights one of the most important aspects of money and happiness, specifically, that it’s all about whether or not you have enough to do what you want.
If you can’t make ends meet, you’ll be stressed and unhappy. And in world where more and more things are “necessary”, it’s easier than ever to not have enough money. Just look at communications. Twenty or thirty years ago, you had to pay for your phone. Now, we have cell phones and internet access, and you might even still have a land line phone!
So, how can we combat this? Well, often it’s not money that can buy happiness, but control over your money can help you combat unhappiness. That’s still not an easy challenge, but it’s a challenge with two potential solutions: make more money or control how you spend it.
Making More Money
The first way to get control over your money is to make more of it. This is the simplest solution, but far from the easiest. If switching your regular job isn’t an option for you, consider starting a “side hustle”. A side hustle is a small job that doesn’t replace your regular job, but it provides a little extra money to make ends meet. It can also be surprisingly satisfying to have a side hustle, even though it takes up time you would normally devote to relaxation and recreation.
While this method doesn’t really increase happiness, it does help you eliminate unhappiness. Imagine if you eliminate every moment you’ve stressed over bills, or worried about having the money to buy something. It might be best to say that this way of getting control of your money increases your average happiness by eliminating many of the sad and stressful part of life as it relates to money. However, the risk of this is that we humans are adaptable creatures, and if you don’t keep control of your budget, it’s easy for spending to creep back out of control.
Spend your Money on What Really Matters
The second way to get control of your money is to redefine how you spend it. This can be hard, but is an incredibly worthwhile activity to undertake. First, analyze how you spend your money, and then decide how much happiness each category contributes to your life.
Using an example from my personal life, my wife and I had 2 cars, but I recently got rid of mine and went to public transit. With gas prices as high as they are, I save myself hundreds of dollars a month. It was money I was spending to drive in heavy traffic and be stressed. Now, I take public transit to work and I read or nap on the trip. I arrive to work more relaxed and ready to tackle the day. The money I spent on a car didn’t contribute any real benefit to my life as a whole, and now that I’ve cut it, I can spend that money on something I’ll enjoy more.
The problem that many of us face is that we make enough money to do almost anything, but we don’t make enough to do everything! So, take the time to figure out what things contribute happiness and satisfaction to your life, and focus your time and money on them.
The advantage of this method is that it can help you both eliminate unhappy moments of your life and help find more of the happy moments.
Control your Money don’t Let it Control You
Whichever method you choose, putting a plan in place to get control of your financial situation is a great way to help improve your relationship with money.
Let’s face it, for many of us, money is the adult equivalent of the monster under our beds that some of us were afraid of as children. It’s time for us all to shine a light on our money situations and move past our fear. Money is a tool, and if we use that tool properly it can make our lives easier. However, if we use it poorly, we can make our lives miserable.
So, you need to ask yourself, how are you going to use the tools that you’ve been given? For me, I figure there are enough things in this world to be sad about, so I’ll try hard not to give myself any more!
About Alex Conde:
He was recently married in 2011, and spends his time working on self-improvement, being a better husband, and trying to make the world a happier place.
Alex is licensed as a Certified Financial Planner in Canada and is a Black Belt in Goju Ryu Karate.