Money makes the world go round…or so the saying goes. Whether true or not, money certainly plays a major role in our lives and it is something that most of us strive to gain more of.
But, let me tell you from personal experience: money does not bring any happiness or joy into your life by itself.
How can I be so sure? Well, let me tell you a story about my life just a few years ago.
An Extravagant, Unfulfilling Life
You see, back then I was in the fortunate position of earning a really good income from my business. I was living smack bang in the center of London, paying sky-high rent and generally being reckless with money.
From the outside I’m sure it all looked as rosy as can be; people would come to my flat and tell me how great it must be to live there with the best of the city right on my doorstep.
But little did they know that I was not entirely happy.
My bank balance was on the rise and I had no reservations when it came to treating myself to little luxuries on a regular basis. Yet something didn’t quite sit right with me. I think I began to go through a bit of an existential crisis – I began questioning the purpose of life itself.
There is no doubt that the money relieved me of certain worries; I wasn’t concerned with meeting my rent or paying my bills. I didn’t have to scrimp or save, or say no to the things I wanted. In fact, I spent a small fortune in the space of a few years.
I’m sure I came across as quite happy to most people, albeit a bit smug and boastful at times, but this was just a facade that covered the cracks underneath.
I felt as though my life was lacking something; something of substance; something that could connect me to my basic, human spirit.
And here’s the very crux of the matter: money cannot, by itself, create substance or meaning, and it cannot bring you joy.
Money is not even real; it is a made up entity that exists purely to better facilitate the bartering of goods and services. In this way, money has no power over our happiness.
The Right Kind Of Spending Works
Here’s where the issue of money starts to get a little thorny because there are certain ways to spend it that can bring you a greater degree of happiness and satisfaction.
The key ingredient is other people.
There is a tendency among western cultures to choose material gains over experiential ones because they seem to last longer. And in a physical sense they do; a sofa will be there long after a day-trip to the seaside is over, for example.
And yet, the human mind is so adept at adapting that the actual benefit you receive from buying new things is typically short-lived. Not long after you unwrap that shiny new space-filler (whatever it may be), it begins to fade into the background until, eventually, it blends seamlessly with all your other possessions.
An experience, on the other hand, may be over quickly, but it will live far longer in the memory and the positive feelings felt can be recalled at a moment’s notice.
So, one of the ways in which money can be used to achieve happiness is to create wonderful experiences for you and others. The joy is almost always greater when you can share times with friends or family and this social element is the important factor, not the money itself.
Of course, not all experiences require much (or any) money, but having a little of it to spend can lead to greater variety and novelty which may result in greater happiness and more memorable moments.
One more thing to say on the matter of experiences versus things is this: the anticipation of experiences can create happiness and joy prior to the event which is not generally the case with physical purchases.
Giving Is Also An Effective Means Of Spending
Another way in which money can create meaning in your life is to donate it to worthy causes that have a place in your heart. This is something that I turned to when I realized something was missing in my life and it did, to a certain degree, reinvigorate me.
It certainly wasn’t the complete solution to my woes, but it did provide a good deal of energy and motivation to be a positive force in the world – something that I’d previously only thought about in dribs and drabs.
In the case of my giving, despite not having a physical connection with anyone in particular, I gained a link to people in the wider community who I knew would benefit far more from my money than I ever could. So, it was people who once again provided the contentment, not the money itself.
Time Is Way More Valuable
A final way that money can, indirectly, lead to happiness is in the way that it can give us more free time; time that can be used for rest, relaxation, and play.
Yet, it is often the case that we give up our time in order to chase more money. We work long hours and take on overtime in order to buy more things, when it would probably be more sensible to work fewer hours and spend time creating experiences with other people.
Money As Anxiety Relief
As I mentioned earlier, money does have one obvious and potentially beneficial use – it relieves the stress and worry of making ends meet. Once you reach a certain level of income and can comfortably pay your rent/mortgage/bills, it does take a load off your mind.
As I found, however, lower anxiety over money does not equate to lower worry levels in general. In other words, a lack of money trouble does not necessarily result in happiness flowing into your life. Once again proof that money does not equal happiness.
The Conscious Rethink: chasing money for money’s sake is not a worthwhile exercise because it does not have the power to bring you joy by itself. While being financially prudent is never a bad thing, don’t think that all your troubles will suddenly melt away if you become rich. Look deeper for the ways that money can bring happiness – through people, experiences, giving, and reclaiming time.