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Happiness Project Update 19: It’s All About Options

9 Jan

“People that say money doesn’t buy happiness, they’re just not trying hard enough .” Will Truman

While undergoing my own Happiness Project the money question definitely came up. And like most people I understand that money alone can’t buy me happiness, but it can definitely help get me some. I’m not talking about material things, like diamonds or name-brand purses or clothes. I’m talking about opportunities. I’m talking about options. Money affords you the kind of opportunities that puts smiles on your faces and checkmarks next to your bucket list items.  Sometimes it’s the difference between seeing the glass half-empty or half-full.

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Most people I run into are adamant about money not buying happiness. An absolute no … it does not. However after reading Rubin’s chapter about money and happiness, I was so glad to find out that she shared my point of view. It does help get you there sooner, but it depends on a few factors. First off, it depends on the kind of person  you are … adventurer, introvert, sports enthusiast, bookworm, television addict, foodie, coupon clipper, mother of two, or single dude out on the town. Although I fit into multiple categories I realized, after my little happiness update on fun a while back,  that simple things make me happy. A good hamburger. A good piece of chocolate. Hearing my favorite song. Dancing to a good song with my kids. Watching a great movie. Sports, playing or watching at any level collegiate, professional, or Olympic style. Everyone measures their needs and wants differently, depending on what makes them happy and what they do for fun.

Rubin’s second factor deals with how you spend your money. The kind of person you are will probably influence your purchasing decisions. You might be a tech dude who purchases the latest gadgets as soon as they come out, or you may be a person whose purchases are well-thought and researched so that even though you are spending money, you still feel like you’re doing what you can to get the best deal. You can be a person who splurges on a really nice bottle of wine every so often as a treat, or you can be the kind of person that eats at Chuy’s on Tuesday, because it’s 2-for-1 taco night.

Some people splurge on themselves for their own happiness, while other people may splurge on family or friends just to see them happy. In truth I do a little bit of both. If I go out in search for some awesome Hawaiian chocolates and run into a good bottle of wine that my friend would really enjoy, I’d probably buy her the bottle. I’m all about little splurges. I learned that from a friend of mine a while back. During her week-long craziness as a middle school teacher, she said she would often splurge on something once a week. Spend a little extra, just to make herself feel good … feel happy. Instead of going to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee, she may have stopped by that specialty food store and bought herself a fancy exotic Central American cup of coffee. A large. She taught me about little splurges, thus my wide knowledge of fantastic chocolate.

But she also reminded me of big splurges. It’s been a while since I’d been on a trip where I had to stay in a hotel. A long while. She told me that when she went on a trip with her husband they stayed at a fancy hotel, and he ordered room service. It was a good experience for them, a happy one. It made them feel good. I often envision them in those fancy white robes and matching slippers, eating on the balcony or something. Being happy. I thought yeah … I need to splurge big every once in while. Nothing too crazy, but something room-service worthy.

Rubin’s last contributing factor affecting the money and happiness relationship dealt with how much money you had in relation to others. Now I’m not much into comparing and contrasting my bank accounts with that of my family or friends. It’s just not how I roll, but Rubin’s point wasn’t so much a compare and contrast. It was more of a perspective thing.

“One person’s fortune is another person’s misfortune.” — Gretchen Rubin.

Dude. Yes! Like if Oprah ever complained about having a bad day, I’d be like … are you kidding me? I wish I had one of your bad days. It’d be an improvement to my current starving-writer-working-class existence. But then again someone in another state or country could be looking at my life and thinking, dude you’re definitely rolling in it. They might be delusional for thinking that way, but hey … you, gotta have perspective.

So in the end having money or wealth doesn’t necessarily make you happy, I know this, I got that. But money does provide you with options. Massive options and when it comes to happiness, it’s all about options. I’ve got to work on expanding my options. Maybe I’ll start small and upgrade my Netflix subscription.

Baby steps … baby steps for bigger options.