Opinion

For 2016, Here’s 3 Ways to Spend Money That Will Give You a High Dose of Real Happiness

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Joanne Poh

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Nobody wants to buy something that will make them unhappy. Even sadistic parents who put their kids through gruelling tuition sessions every day after school do so with the hopes that these classes will eventually improve their kids’ grades, so they get a good job and hopefully don’t end up selling tissue on the streets.

So it’s pretty logical that we spend money in order to increase our happiness. If people thought that Chanel bag would make you break out into cold sores or give you an STD, fewer women would be willing to spend a few months’ worth of salary on one of those quilted-looking ones.

Still, some things give you greater value in terms of happiness than others. A kickass novel costs only $15 but can provide hours of undiluted pleasure, unless you’re illiterate or the sort of person who hates reading. On the other hand, a $5,000 Chanel handbag can cost the same as a whopping 10 weekend trips to Bali. Which do you think would bring you more happiness?

Here are three things you can spend your money on which are high in terms of happiness quotient.

 

Getting rid of debt

Using your hard earned cash to do something as boring as paying off your debt might not sound appealing to those who self-identify as shopaholics. Why give your money to the bank when you don’t get any bling back in exchange?

In truth, getting rid of debt, especially high interest loans like credit card debt, will do a lot more to boost your happiness than you might think. To be precise, they remove the chances of suffering from a lot of the unhappiness you would experience if you chose to ignore your debt.

You might have rung up debt of just a few hundred dollars using your credit cards. But try ignoring it for a few months and you’ll find to your horror that the amount you owe will have swelled, thanks to insanely high interest rates of about 25% to 28%+. Check out this article elsewhere on MoneySmart to see just how crazily fast your debt can increase.

Not only will you be paying more and more for nothing (imagine what you could do with that money!), it’s just a matter of weeks before the bank sends their debt collectors to hound you for the cash. These guys can be pretty mean. If that still doesn’t work you’ll get slapped with a lawyer’s letter. Ignore those and you could find your property seized, or yourself going bankrupt.

Spending a few thousand dollars to get rid of your debt once and for all might not be as instantly gratifying as buying a Chanel bag, but we guarantee that handbag isn’t going to offer you a shoulder to cry on when the debt collectors strike.

Even if you’ve managed to scrape together the minimum sum each month and haven’t been threatened by debt collectors yet, you’ll feel a lot more at ease knowing you’re no longer wasting money on interest fees each month and can finally stop balking when you receive your credit card bills.

 

Experiences that last a long time

It’s already been proven by science that spending money on experiences rather than stuff is more effective at increasing your happiness.

But not all experiences are created equal. That means spending $500 on a 3-day 2-night scuba diving course could make you happier in the long run than blowing the same amount on a single night out at a bottle service club. You might be better off buying that annual membership to a yoga studio where you’ll make friends and learn a new skill over the next 12 twelve months, than spending the same amount on a yoga retreat that lasts only 3 days.

Experiences that can be drawn out over a longer period of time tend to give you a bigger bang for your buck than those that will be over in the blink of an eye.

That’s why some experts have suggested that you’re better off taking frequent short holidays, than saving up all your annual leave and money to take a longer break once a year.

Picking up a new skill or starting a new hobby are a pretty effective way to allocate your time and money, since you become part of a new community that meets up once a week or more, and also cultivate a new interest that can serve you well for years after.

 

Helping others

It’s been well-documented that helping others makes us happy, too.

But “donating” thousands of dollars to help support KTV hostesses or being the guy who always picks up the tab when you’re out drinking don’t really count.

You certainly don’t have to give 10% of your salary to a pushy religious organisation to experience the happiness of helping others.

Spending a bit of your money to help someone else could be as simple as treating a dear friend to a meal, or buying some toys for the kids at Club Rainbow. It could be about buying a gift for a mentor or purchasing a new sketchbook for a friend who aspires to be an artist.

Sure, you might not have an armful of shopping bags to show for your expenditure. But you’ll strengthen your bond with another human being and feel more connected to the community at large.

And judging by the fact that Singaporeans consistently demonstrate low levels of happiness, giving more to others might help to boost youe sense of place in the world. While surveys have shown that we don’t fare that badly in terms of giving to charity (although we’re by no means generous), the fact that we get tax relief for making donations might have something to do with it.

Still, volunteerism rates remain low and most Singaporeans are too busy fending for themselves in a dog-eat-dog society to care about others.

Next time you feel the urge to spend money, spend it on someone who needs it more than you. You might be surprised to find yourself feeling less alienated in the world.

What are some ways to spend money that can make you happier? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.