Spending Sweet Spots: Which expenses make life better?
Opening your first paycheck or hearing the sound of coins clinking in a piggy bank can bring excitement and joy. However, according to a study in the journal Emotion, while it’s possible that people with more money experience more happiness, people with less money can derive joy from things that are meaningful to them.
So how can you squeeze the greatest amount of happiness from the money you do have, even when your earnings might not be enough to afford the tropical vacation you’ve been dreaming of? I’m happy to report that the answer isn’t just to scrimp and save until you can afford that trip. Instead, by approaching daily life with a playful mindset and re-examining our default patterns, we can find the sweet spot of spending money that provides maximum satisfaction with minimal effort.
Sweet Spot #1: Spend Money to Buy Time
Think about things that you hate doing or feel unmotivated to do. That could be tidying up your home, or driving an hour to buy groceries. Boring, right? Well, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, unlike the limited benefits of buying material things, spending money to save time can reduce the feeling of time pressure and increase happiness.
In other words, people who prioritize time over money are often happier. If you're feeling frustrated about a cluttered living room, why not splash out on a home cleaning service? Or if stopping at the supermarket on the way home from work is just too much sometimes, let yourself order your groceries online or via an app. By giving yourself permission to buy back some time once in a while, you’ll be giving yourself grace to rest when the business of daily life still needs tending to, and that’s okay.
Sweet Spot 2: Spend Money to Show You Care
I want to share with you a story I heard recently that’s a new favorite:
💡 "I never know what to get my father for his birthday. I gave him a hundred dollars and said, ‘Buy yourself something that will make your life easier.’ So he went out and bought a present for my mother." - Rita Rudner
Have you ever noticed how preparing gifts for family, friends, or partners can make you happier than buying things for yourself? As it turns out, that observation is backed by research! Experiments done by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found that regardless of income, those who spend money only for themselves are less happy, while people who spend money on others feel happier. So instead of spending frivolously on impulse purchases, considering boosting your own happiness by making a thoughtful purchase for someone you care about.
Sweet Spot 3: Spend Money to Buy What You See Every Day
It’s been remarked often that people are visual animals. In that vein, if you are going to spend money, doesn’t it make sense to invest in things that you will see and use every day?
“But you can see wasteful purchases just as well as you can see useful ones,” you may be thinking. Sounds like we need a more precise definition of what we see every day. To start, let’s break down a typical day and identify the tools necessary for each component. For example, my daily hours could be divided as follows:
8 hours of working: computer, standing desk, headphones, office chair 7 hours of sleep: mattress, pillow, duvet, white noise machine 5 hours on devices(wow 😅): phone, tablet, mobile accessories 3 hours eating or cooking: tableware, kitchenware, cups 1 hour of exercise: sportswear, sneakers, fitness watch
Ok, now what?
Well, when I realized that I spent one-third of my time in bed, I knew that although a more comfy mattress might be a bit expensive, it would give me the rest I need to face every new day. And I’ll be honest – I don’t work out every single day, so new running shoes aren’t necessarily an effective investment for me. However, since I work at my desk daily, I may consider purchasing a comfortable ergonomic chair to avoid back pain and reduce fatigue while working.
Take a look at your own daily life, and examine which things it makes sense to splurge a bit on for the greatest satisfaction gains. Mattresses and desk chairs might not be as exciting as a new entertainment purchase, but their benefits last much longer.
Final Thoughts: Spending Money Can Bring Happiness
Despite all the advice available on how to save money, it’s important to remember that, sometimes, spending a little money can lead to big life improvements. So before your next purchase, take a few seconds to think about whether it’s a good investment, or if there are other options that could give you more than just the short-term joy of acquisition. Sometimes, your money can buy happiness, just in much longer-term ways than you think.