This is part 2 in our series on the recently published book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, by behavioral scientists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. Their tagline is:
“If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.”
According to their research, there are five basic ways in which money can be spent that increase happiness for the average person.
- Buy Experiences
- Make It A Treat
- Buy Time
- Pay Now, Consume Later
- Invest In Others
And we’re hitting these main points one-by-one. Feel free to start at the beginning (links above) or hop right into this week’s.
Part 2 – Make It A Treat
Again, this is not anything that seems particularly controversial these days. Hedonic adaptation is our very human ability to become quickly accustomed to luxuries so they are no longer grand luxuries, but rather just something we simply expect as a matter of course. To fight this, we can simply take these luxuries and make them a rarity in our lives in order to retain a feeling of gratitude.
Sometimes we must force this upon ourselves (say limiting the daily latte habit so that it retains its feeling of luxury), and sometimes it is forced upon us by marketing geniuses who understand the average person’s response to something that is available “for a limited time”. Would people be as obsessed with pumpkin spice lattes if they were available year round? What about candy corn? Or the McRib? Scarcity imposed from an outside source turns these otherwise everyday items into treats that provide outsized enjoyment for most.
When we have too much access to something (even, for example, an experience that might bring us extended happiness as discussed in part 1), it’s very easy for people to become immune to it.
“After living in London for a whole year, residents typically report that they’ve visited fewer landmarks – from Big Ben to Kensington Palace – than visitors who have only been there for two weeks. Although London attracts more international visitors than any other cities in the world, most London residents report having visited more landmarks in cities other than their own.”
Because these landmarks are available to locals all the time, people never seem to get around to enjoying experiences that might be relatively inexpensive sources of great “experiential happiness”.
One of the examples in this section talked about taking an ordinary activity and making it a treat, like driving. I confess that driving with top and doors off of my jeep is one of the most enjoyable things I do all weekend, probably because thats the only time that I do it! Cheap thrills man…
I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed when I read the section that described year-long residents of London having experienced fewer of the local landmarks than visitors that had been there just a couple of weeks. That goes against my philosophy of loving where you live, but getting into habits and routines is an easy thing to do.
Heck, I asked Mr PoP what he thought I did as a treat, and he responded sarcastically with “your routine”. It’s true. I thrive on routine, but when things get too routine – even for me, the joy can be lost. I used to really enjoy going to my weekend yoga class and then having a subway sandwich with a friend afterward. It was a treat, only happening on occasion. But we’ve developed a routine, and now it’s a given. I feel like I need an explanation or a reason if I don’t want to sit down in Subway for half an hour. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the 1-1 time with my friend, it’s just that it’s not a treat anymore, and I’m still trying to figure out how to turn that time back into a treat without any hurt feelings.
What do you spend money on to treat yourself? Do you treat yourself enough?