He Said / She Said / Kitty PoP Said – Maximizing Happiness ROI

Today we’re bringing you another round of He Said/She Said.  These posts are really your chance as readers to hear how discussions (and sometimes disagreements) play out when managing our lives with each other.  For a look at some of the past He Said/She Said discussions – check ‘em out here.

Background on Today’s Conversation

We tend to focus quite a bit here on maximizing ROI on investments.  Heck, maximizing the ROI on an investment in your career was really the inspiration behind Monday’s post – Spend Money To Make Money.  But the thing is, money isn’t the only thing that we want to keep maximizing in our lives.  Even more essential than money is our happiness, so we must constantly seek to maximize that as well.

I recently read the book You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel who is the author of the blog Rowdy Kittens.  Tammy and her husband joined the “Tiny House Movement” a few years ago when they drastically downsized their lifestyles, moved into a tiny house on wheels and discovered more happiness and joy in their lives by doing so.

While Mr. PoP and I aren’t planning on moving into a tiny house anytime soon (though Tammy does say in the book that “tiny” can be relative and has an example of one woman whose house is the same size as ours – 1,100 sqft!), the book served as a great reminder during a stressful and busy month that money isn’t everything and we have activities in our lives that provide an enormous “Happiness ROI” not only because of the joy that they bring us, but because they cost just so darned little.

We brainstormed – a very fun activity when you’re brainstorming all the things that make you happiest! – and here are what we believe are our maximal Happiness ROI activities:


He Said

I <3 the Internets. Seriously, for cheap fun, you just can’t beat it for free musicinteresting blogsfinancial statementsout of copyright books, forums and how-to guides.

Reddit Alien!

Does the Narwhal bacon at midnight?

Second up is probably tinkering with my various hobbies; sometimes its repairing a lawnmower, sometimes its working on a tube amplifier.

Music is probably my last cheap thrill-the price I paid for my headphones, guitar and music collection is under $600, spread out over the last decade or so. Not a bad ROI for the hundreds of thousands of hours I’ve spent either listening to or trying to create music!

One thing that I’ve never been able to accomplish, but that I’ve heard of often, is turning a hobby like my tinkering or music into some sort of side-gig. Its not a big deal because I’m ok with my current job, but I’ve always been slightly intrigued by somebody who can turn their happiness ROI into a monetary ROI as well.



She Said

For me, it’s sitting in the sanctuary of our home, usually in the backyard, and being treated to a new and unique creature coming to spend some time on our property.  I grew up with a yard that consisted of dead crab grass surrounded by six-foot-tall cinder block walls.  Seeing any bird more exotic than a grey dove or a house sparrow was a treat!

Otters – They’re like dachsunds without spines!

But now we have easily a dozen different types of birds each week.  We have animals that play in our land like Stumpy, a new racer snake we discovered recently, and the family of otters that occasionally weekends in our little lake.  Thirty seconds of watching an otter or two play in our lake in the morning will put me in a great mood all day!

Occasionally I’ll feel a little childish about my fascination with all of the little creatures that are making our quarter-acre of suburbia their (and my!) paradise.  This usually happens when I’ve overshared this fascination – I think that’s part of my aspie tendencies – and I realize too late that person is not interested.  But I don’t get embarrassed or feel bad for too long, because the joy that these creatures bring vastly outweighs any potential embarrassment.


And for goofiness sake, today we’re also throwing Kitty PoP’s view in here!


Kitty PoP Said

I can’t resist the siren call of the sheets.

I tend to live in the moment and find joy in most situations, but there are few things that make me happier than when Mr. or Mrs. PoP makes the bed in the morning.  When I hear that sound of a sheet being shaken out (anyone know the onomatopoeia for that?), I’ll run in as fast as I can and try and have the bed made around me.  I roll on my back and play “Whack a paw” for as long as they let me.  Eventually they give up (I win!) and just make the bed with me in it.  This is pure bliss.  I’ll sit in my little cocoon until I’ve lost track of time before sneaking out to find something new to pounce on.  Speaking of which, I think I see a lizard now…



What simple activity has a maximal Happiness ROI for you?  Are you going to make time for it today?


Oh yes – a quick reminder that the Amazon links are affiliate.  So purchases made through them would garner PoP a nominal kick-back.

49 comments to He Said / She Said / Kitty PoP Said – Maximizing Happiness ROI

  • I actually have a side interest in happiness research (it’s an actual branch of psychology). From what I’ve read, being engaged in whatever your doing is paramount. So if you’re spending money on hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about and engage you’re mind, then you’re probably getting a good happiness ROI out of that.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..ConocoPhillips (COP) Dividend Stock AnalysisMy Profile

    • I think it was in the NYTimes recently that I was reading about “mindfulness” – which as I understand it is the process of being present in the moment in every action. It’s supposed to be very beneficial in terms of health and well-being, but very difficult to truly practice on a regular basis.
      Would love to hear more about happiness research! Have you ever posted on it?

  • Lots of “free” stuff makes me happy- watching my kids play, a beautiful sunset. The older I get, the easier it is for me to be content with the simple joys of life =)
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Quicken Loans Review: My Easy Home Mortgage RefinanceMy Profile

  • Brian

    I used to hate it, but going on a short run makes me happy and it is even better with my little guy in tow. He even kicks his legs the entire time we run!

    • That’s so cute that your little guy “runs” in the stroller with you. My friend has an almost 3 year old that comes with us in the jogger every once in a while, and he loves it to. He zones out while we’re running, and then always runs the cool down laps with us. Too adorable!

  • PK

    Working out. As ‘They’ say, “no one ever regrets working out.”

    I know there’s tons of fine science behind that, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever make money off working out. Fitness model and financial blogger?
    PK recently posted..Auditing CBO Estimates: A History of Deficit Projections Since 1976My Profile

    • Don’t say you’ll never make money working out! I probably made $0.30 on my 7mile run at lunch today! It’s not getting rich money, but seriously – try Gympact. If you’re an exerciser already it’s like free money to keep you on track.

  • What do I do to relax? I workout, watch tv, and blog. My favorite activities :)

    For my husband and I, it’s very important to have “me” time and relax, so we won’t be stressed out.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..I Heart a Pottery Barn Sectional CouchMy Profile

    • Stressed out is definitely not where we want to be. I have a book on “stress” that I’ve ordered from the library and I can’t wait to get it and read all about the history of stress as a concept in our modern society.

  • Perfect weather days make me happy. Sunny 70-80 degrees, no wind. Maybe if I lived somewhere with perfect weather I wouldn’t appreciate them as much, but even a calm, semi-warm day after a snow storm is wonderful. Good books are also great. A good book on a warm day sitting outdoors would be ideal.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..We Flipped a House!-Part 2, Renovating a Distressed PropertyMy Profile

    • I’ve lived with near perfect weather for most of my life, and it absolutely never gets old. I love the feeling of sunshine on my back as I read a good book, too!

  • A long walk somewhere with lots to look at, whether it be a cute neighborhood, the beach, the forest. One of the things I hate most about my neighborhood is that it’s a terrible place for walking!

    I also love watching a good movie, even if it’s one I’ve seen a million times. I’m like a small child that way: If I like a movie, I’ll watch it over and over again, sometimes day after day. Although lately movies have been few and far between.
    Ms.W @ GrowingHerWorth recently posted..Learning to Say NoMy Profile

  • I love relaxing and that is very cheap! Between work and grad school, plus keeping up with fitness, and day to day life (grocery shopping, laundry, dog walking)…one of my favorite things these days is playing on my ipad and lounging on the couch catching up on tv with my dog on one side and my husband on the other. does that make me sad? a girl needs a break!

    another cheap thing i love to do is walk to get frozen yogurt with my husband. i love our walks!

    • Doesn’t make you sad at all. One of my other favorites is sitting on the couch leaning up against Mr. PoP with Kitty PoP sitting on the top of the couch behind us purring. =)

  • Dancing the tango increases my happiness. Living in a beautiful, light-filled space increases my happiness. Going on vacations with my husband definitely increases my happiness (I guess that one’s not so simple or cheap!). Other things – learning something really cool and new and interesting invigorates me, and spending time getting brunch or coffee with friends leaves me feeling really content. In the grand scheme of things, knowing that I can save a healthy chunk of change every month / year / fulfill my financial goals gives me satisfaction.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..Underwater basketweaving – it’s a real classMy Profile

  • That is so awesome you have otters in the backyard! There’s some cliffs nearby that I love – paragliders on the side, ocean and beach down the cliffs, and it’s almost always quiet. Working out and hanging with the bf are also up there on the list!
    anna recently posted..Word to my motherMy Profile

    • The otters are pretty awesome – and they’re like a special treat since they’re not out there every day. But when they are, I’ll squeal across the house, “It’s an otter day!” =D

      The cliffs sound awesome. I can just imagine the wind blowing through your hair as you sit down and take it all in.

  • lol, that was super cute. I love the ‘what kitty pop said’ part. But besides that, a really good post. I think it’s important to stop and think about the ROI for happiness. A concept I certainly have never thought of before, and probably most people don’t. Personally, I love the idea of buying one of those mini houses. Of course, that would be a giant step UP for me at this point, considering Im living with friends right now. But the happiness quotient is often not what most people think – money, vacations, mansions, etc… One thing that would definitely make it on my list is coffee dates with my bff at Starbucks, and that only costs a little gas and $4.35 for a drink 😉
    Sharon J. Gilman recently posted..Chasing my pot o’ goldMy Profile

    • Aww, thanks. Glad you liked Kitty PoP’s part. I totally agree that money, vacations, mansions, etc – are not what would make me happiest. And a BFF date at Starbucks is an amazing way to increase the day’s happiness quotient! We have have many of those over the years with each other and good friends, too.

  • Ivy

    Books definitely. That’s my drug of choice – but my husband is often annoyed that I am curled with a book in the evenings instead of talking with him. So that increases my ROI, but decreases his :-(

    I am now going through, believe it or not, the “Little house” series of children books. I picked 10 of them at the recent library book sale for when my daughter is a few years older, but I started going through them myself. Being an immigrant I knew that they are a classic here, but hadn’t actually read them. Such a pleasure, I love historical details about daily life of people and I have yet to see something better described. And I just discovered there is another series about the daughter and more about the mother, grandmother and greatgrandmother of Laura. Days of happy reading ahead :-)

    • Oh my gosh, I haven’t thought about the Little House books in ages! I devoured those when I was a kid. Have you tried any of the Anne of Green Gables series? If I’m remembering right, those are a little older and set in Canada, but they were great as a child. I’m sure your daughter is going to love reading all of them, and it’s neat that you’re reading them too!

  • For me it’s knitting or sewing. For $5 I can buy a skein of yarn and entertain myself for at least a few days. Another simple pleasure is spending time with our pup. We like to take him to the dog park and for long walks around the neighborhood (well, when it’s warmer at least).
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Take-out Temptation=Epic Budget FailureMy Profile

  • For me, listening to Marketplace on the radio every day makes me smile. I know its a show about economics but I laugh everytime I hear it on my walk home. And it’s got a high ROI because it makes me smarter!
    Ross recently posted..Cash Rebel VS The Financial Adviser: Part IIMy Profile

  • trudy

    Wild animals, like Mrs. PoP. I spend an unfrugal amount on bird seed and shelled, unsalted peanuts for the feeders on my deck, and see quite a number of wonderful animals. Other than that, books and nature, family, and friends.

    • I didn’t know birds liked unsalted peanuts! Our blue jays eat the acorns in the oak tree all the time. =)

      Your list definitely sounds like mine…. nature + books, or even better books in nature! Give me a book to read in a park on a nice day and I’m pretty close to nirvana.

      • trudy

        Bluejays, cardinals, and the little finch/sparrow type birds eat the peanuts. The mourning doves don’t go near them, perhaps their beaks are not designed for that. Also peanut fiends are foxes, skunks, opossums, raccoons, chipmunks, woodchucks, and, of course, squirrels.

        The feeders are dishes set on the deck. I have a couple of heavy glass pie plates and another similarly large flattish dish.

  • I love the kitty section. Mine seems to make a nice little home for himself before I have to make the bed, which makes him cranky. :) I think there are so many things…I agree with the internet. It’s something I could not live without. Volleyball lessons were a good ROI..it helped me get good and enjoy the game better. Also my apartment. I’ve struggled with the cost, but I LOVE the location so much, I’d rather cut stuff like cable and have a safe, nice place to live (nothing fancy), but it brings me peace.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..When are you Happiest?My Profile

    • Aww, thanks! I love our house, too! I’ve lived in some crappy places, and it’s nice to finally really truly love where you live – even if it’s not perfect!

  • I have an activity that has a high happiness ROI, but poor monetary ROI and that is tinkering with cars. I have a project jeep that I am bringing back to life and that is what I enjoy. I get ready in the winter to work on it in the spring and the time is coming.
    Grayson @ Debt RoundUp recently posted..Should I Invest or Pay Off Student Loans First?My Profile

    • Oooh, Mr. PoP loves tinkering. If we had a bigger garage he’d probably want to tinker more with cars since he did that a lot as a teenager. Have you posted about the project jeep? We took some pictures of a very well “loved” jeep on our walk tonight. Mr. PoP loves those things!

  • This may sound weird, but one of my biggest happiness ROIs is being completely alone! I just need alone time, and it is few and far between now that I have Baby Girl. I always feel renewed and refreshed (and happy!) when I get some time to myself.

    I don’t think my husband feels that way at all, haha. I’m not sure what he would say, but I’m pretty sure we have very different happiness ROIs!
    Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget recently posted..Guest Post: Saving Money on MealsMy Profile

  • Writing The Frugal Path has given me a lot of happiness. I really love talking about money, to the point where others look for a way out of the conversation. By being part of the PF community, I’m able to talk to my heart’s content.
    BTW, thanks for linking the best practices post. I’ve been meaning to take that quiz, last time the link didn’t work for me.
    Justin recently posted..Financial Perspective: Bill Gates and the $100 BillMy Profile

    • Ooh, I hope the link works for you this time!

      We’ve also gotten a ton of enjoyment and fulfillment out of writing our blog together and being part of the PF community. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we were on vacation and first started talking about writing a blog together.

  • For sheer happiness ROI reading is one of my favourite pleasures! I think I am pretty easily pleased. Lying out in the sun, beach trips, a delicious meal, dancing to a favourite song… All these make me stupidly contented.
    eemusings recently posted..Boyfriend in the kitchen: Beef and mushroom noodlesMy Profile

    • I totally understand you with reading. When I got in trouble as a kid, my parents would take my books away as punishment. That was when it stung!

  • The act of kneading dough and inhaling the freshly made bread from the oven. Bread-making is so therapeutic.

    In addition… Reading, writing, looking at my sister’s cat pictures!
    Ms. Doodles recently posted..Houston Food Trucks, Unite!My Profile

    • Are you able to get zen when you knead dough? I’m kindof jealous that you’re able to enjoy it as you probably have the best bread in your house!

  • simply happiness activities for me are baking cinnamon swirls, watching an exciting or fun movie on our TV with BF, and going for long walks around town with BF.
    The Norwegian Girl recently posted..Where are you Spring? & Sunday LinkMy Profile

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