Do You Think Money Can't Buy Happiness?
By Steve Gillman
It is common to say that money can't buy happiness. The truth
is not quite so simple, as explained on the page A
Look at Money and Happiness. As pointed out there, if curing
disease, relieving poverty or building a church can in any way
bring any small measure of happiness to people, then money can
at the very least help arrange conditions that are conducive
to being happy. This page, then, takes a look at the "how."
How do we use money more wisely? How do we use it to bring
about a better life in personal matters and in the world? Another
way to look at this is to ask, "What can we do differently
to make money actually more valuable?"
Personal Happiness and Money
It has been said in various ways that people's true intentions
are not expressed in words but in how they spend their time,
energy and money. Combine that thought with a monthly tracking
of every penny spent and some of us might feel a bit depressed
about ourselves. But the truth should never be depressing. It
is an opportunity to learn and grow.
If, for example, you think that happiness is more likely to
be found in good spiritual principles and practices than in having
a new car every three years, you can do something about it. Divert
just a bit of that money into buying some great books and programs
that encourage real spiritual growth. Or if it is time for meditation
and reflection that you need, money can buy that too. Spend less
on frivolous things and you can afford to take a week at a time
Or perhaps what you need in life right now is better living
conditions and healthier foods to eat. Money certainly can buy
those. Find ways to make more and be sure to apply those gains
to what matters.
Get a notebook and start listing everything you buy for a
month or two along with how much you spent. You'll very likely
find that your spending habits don't entirely match your deepest
desires. Why not change that? That notebook contains valuable
information you can use to learn about yourself and why you are
where you are.
You can argue money can't buy happiness, but it buys something.
What are you buying with yours?
Buying Happiness for Others
Again, we can argue about the definitions of "buy"
and "happiness," but we can also see clearly that we
can buy medicine, books, food and clothing. And if we get these
things for those who don't have them, isn't it also clear that
we can make life better in some ways? But how do we use money
wisely when spending it on others?
This is not an easy question to answer. Some general principles
stand out, of course. For example, it seems that it is wiser
to spend money on teaching a man how to fish than in buying fish
for him. On the other hand people sometimes need to eat today
before they can even have the energy to think about how to feed
Despite a few wise principles we might extract from experience,
the question of how to help others is a case-by-case matter.
To be honest, I don't have any decent answers. My own experience
is full of examples where I or others have given help that hurt.
Give a friend money to get into an apartment, for example, and
maybe you just help him into an expense he can't really afford,
leading to bankruptcy.
Then there are the examples on a larger scale. Help a million
irresponsible people into mortgages they can't handle and you
don't cure their irresponsibility - you just make the consequences
worse. Lend money to corrupt governments of poor nations and
you enslave future generations who must work in poverty to pay
I have become somewhat skeptical of most of the ways we try
to help others with money. It seems that small gifts that show
our love might have some value, and that when people are truly
changing their ways money can help with that. But in a rich nation
full of opportunities money is rarely the thing that people need
most. It may be better to help people in other, poorer countries,
where we can buy necessary food and education and even economic
Maybe money can't buy happiness for ourselves or others, but
there are many things it can buy. Again this suggests that we
take a serious look at how we use it.