You may be surprised to learn that money CAN buy happiness - but only to a certain extent. This Wall Street Journal article outlines some interesting findings: (1) Life experiences give us more lasting pleasure than material things. A once-in-a-lifetime trip still gives you something to talk about long after your favorite gadgets end up in a landfill. While it is important not to go overboard with any purchase, I try and encourage clients to make room in their budget for a monthly date night or an annual vacation.
(2) Avoid the temptation to join the rat race. The more money we make, the more money we spend. When our salary increases, we may buy a bigger house in a better neighborhood, put our kids in private school, or invest in other luxuries. These changes lock us into needing that extra income which may or may not be easy to sustain long-term. They also expose us to an environment where we see other things we want that require more money - welcome to the rat race.
(3) Spending on other people makes you happier than spending on yourself. Decide how much you want to spend each year on gifts and charity. Don't forget to also update your estate planning documents to list the beneficiaries of your wealth upon passing.
(4) Get a shorter commute. The article cites a study that reports that people with longer commutes reported lower overall life satisfaction, all else being equal. Look at the option to move closer to work, so you can reduce the gas bill and spend more time with your friends, family, pets and hobbies.
Here are a couple more thoughts that are not from the article, but from the book Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord.
5) Making comparisons can spoil your happiness. Don't compare yourself to your co-worker or friend. If your life works, that is all that matters. It is good to be motivated and ambitious, just don't focus on measuring yourself by others successes.
6) Many people only see happiness in their future. Don't let that be you! Take time to reflect on your life daily and be thankful for what you have in the present.