Some people say that money is the root of all evil. Others argue that not money, but the lack of money is the root of all evil, as people out of fear of not being able to pay the bills on time or provide for their families, sacrifice their morals to survive. Yet, practice shows that greed and immoral behavior remain most common among those with more than enough, while many poor people are generous and kind.
The relationship between humans and money seems complicated. For example, some say money can’t buy happiness, as happiness comes from within, or perhaps from things money can’t buy, like love, friendship, inner peace, and purpose. Others claim that money certainly can buy happiness, as money buys you great experiences, like traveling around the world or going to festivals and concerts with friends and family.
Moreover, with enough cash, you’ll be able to retire and live without the stress of working for a job and being unable to bear the cost of living. But, the question, can money make you happy often leads to endless discussions without satisfying answers.
However, money is an important factor in this world. We all need money to live our lives. But there are differences in how we handle money and how we experience its value. Some are perfectly satisfied earning a modest salary, supporting their simple lifestyles. Others have millions, live lavishly, and only crave more. So it seems that the amount of money you have doesn’t correlate with how happy you feel, but does that mean that money cannot buy you happiness? Not necessarily. Money can buy you happiness. You just have to know how to spend it.
Understanding the Difference Between Natural Desires and Vain Desires
There are two types of Natural Desires –
- Necessary Natural Desires
- Unnecessary Natural Desires
Necessary Natural Desires are basic needs like hunger, thirst, and the need for proper rest and sleep, as we naturally desire them and also need to satisfy them for our survival.
Whereas Unnecessary Natural Desires are the desires for expensive food, having an extensive social circle, or a sexual encounter, as we also naturally desire such things but don’t need them for survival.
Vain Desires are those desires which we don’t need for survival and aren’t natural. Is there any need for a million-dollar Rolex? It doesn’t satisfy any natural desire. Such a desire comes from opinion. Many believe that a costly watch can make them happy as that will become a topic of interest in their social group.
Also, the desire for expensive things can never be satisfied, unlike hunger or thirst. We get bored quickly after purchasing something costly that we don’t need. For example, buying a new car can be exciting initially, but as time passes, that excitement begins to wear off. Once we get used to the car, we look for a better one.
Moreover, we don’t need vain desires to experience happiness. We need to fulfill our natural desires.
Ways We Think Money Buys Happiness
Let’s say all your basic needs are fulfilled and still you are left with an ample amount of money. What would be the best way to spend it? Should you go shopping and spend it on material things to satisfy your feelings? Of course, it’s up to you to decide how you spend your money.
Research suggests that spending money on experiences is more satisfying than spending it on things. Dutch psychologist, Ap Dijksterhuis, said that money makes people happy if they spend it on experiences like traveling.
In an article on Forbes, a psychology professor, Dr. Thomas Gilovich mentions three reasons why possessions lead to less happiness than experiences:
- Firstly, it’s because we quickly get used to new possessions. For example, buying a new smartphone is interesting in the beginning. But, as weeks pass, a friend of yours buys a new one, and your smartphone isn’t new anymore. Also, after a few weeks, many new smartphones get released with even better features than before. Thus, we are in search of the latest version of smartphones, and buying such a smartphone becomes a norm.
- Secondly, we keep raising the bar. So, buying such things becomes an obsession and thus becomes a habit. Such things can be anything, not just smartphones, it can also be clothes, electronic accessories, etc.
The purchase of material possessions, thus, only brings temporary satisfaction. What we once wished for, we eagerly obtain, and then it loses its power, which in turn makes us feel sad.
- Thirdly, Gilovich states that possessions come with comparisons. We humans mostly tend to compare what we have, with what others have. Your new smartphone may lose value when your friends buy a better smartphone, and this might encourage you to upgrade.
Material things like televisions, cars, or houses last for years while experiences like traveling or going to a concert are feelings. Research suggests that such feelings provide long-lasting happiness. Such experiences are memories that last for the rest of our lives.
Unlike material things, experiences become part of our identity, and no one can take them away from us. Also, we cannot compare experiences the same way we compare things. Experiences are personal and unique, which makes it difficult to determine their value. So, other people’s experiences won’t quickly devalue your own.
Other Ways To Buy Happiness
Aside from buying time and experiences, there is another way to buy happiness, and that is spending money to make other people happy. The act of giving has a positive effect on how we feel.
The University of British Columbia’s professor, Elizabeth Dunn, performed research which shows that we generate happiness for ourselves by giving money to charity. Through charity, money can buy happiness if we use it to benefit people who need it.
Thus, money can be used to support causes and organizations that are important to an individual in need, which can bring a sense of purpose and satisfaction.
Also, money can be used to purchase time and freedom, such as hiring help with household chores or being able to retire early, which can reduce stress and increase leisure time. Money can also be used to provide financial security and stability, especially for famous individuals, which can provide peace of mind and improve the quality of sleep.
Finally, we can conclude that the way we spend our money can in turn decide how we feel.
Also, it’s important to note that while money can play a role in buying happiness, it’s not the only factor and it’s important to find balance and fulfillment in other areas of life as well.