Our relationship with money can often be described as toxic, from causing arguments and work dissatisfaction, to making us feel less than good enough, but whether we like it or not we live in a world that revolves around numbers on a screen. So, given that we can't take down the system, how can we make that relationship a little more pure?
Working on detaching our sense of self-worth and happiness to the numbers in our bank account is one of the biggest but most difficult steps in nurturing a more positive relationship with money. The message that money makes the person has been drilled into us since we could think, but as we grow older, and the more money we accumulate, we find ourselves having the same problems and emotions that we did when we were less wealthy. So instead of retail therapy - which does work in the short term for some - how can we invest our cash for longer lasting happiness?
Do, Don't Collect
A study at the University of Cornell found that spending money on experiences increased satisfaction over spending it on material things. The reason for this is fairly simple; as creatures who are naturally predisposed to social comparison, it's much harder to compare experience than it is to compare things. For instance, if you bought tickets to a festival as well as a a pair of new shoes, it's easier to compare the quality of your friend's new shoes than it is your individual experiences of the festival - ultimately making the latter a greater source of happiness. Another thing to remember is that experiences are one-offs, which means they won't suffer from the hedonic adaptation that causes our joy at a new material thing to diminish over time.
Give It Away
Elizabeth Dunn conducted an experiment where she gave strangers $20 and asked them to spend the money on themselves or on someone else. Without fail, those who spent the money on others reported greater feelings of satisfaction. She also discovered that regardless of income, people who spent a good portion of their salaries on other people were on average, happier than those who spent it on themselves. With this in mind, why not find some Amazon Wishlists for small charities in your area, or treat someone you love with a surprise gift?
We can often spend money in ways that saves us time, and time makes us happier than money. So what do we mean? If you spend hours cleaning your house, why not invest in a cleaner or a robo-vac. Buying yourself hours back will feel great, and imagine if that time leads to projects and hobbies that make you even happier?
Retail therapy does work, but you have to bear in mind the short term happiness from buying material things. Next time you want a quick pick-me-up in the form of a credit card and a TK Maxx spree, try and limit your spending to little treats that, to be honest, bring just as much joy as the big ones.