Financial habits focus on experiences

Permission to Spend Money on Happiness

‘Tis the Season for spending ALL of the money!  As I have worked with people and their financial lives for over 12 years, December is the month to spend money.  If someone is going to go rogue with their budgets and spending, it happens in December.  The other day, a client told me it usually takes them all of the 1st quarter of the next year to recover from the spending spree of December.

In December, we are all about the gifts and food. Come January, we are all about the fitness and nutrition plans that will help us recover from the feast of December. And oftentimes, we do this spending without abandon because we are convinced we are spending money on things that bring happiness. And we are not wrong but the trouble is, the happiness is sometimes very fleeting. You’ve heard the saying, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Well actually, money can buy happiness if you spend it the right way. It’s not about having more and more money to find happiness.  It is about changing your behaviors and habits around spending that can bring you more happiness. 

Happy Money

This concept comes from the book, Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton.  The book has 5 tips on how to derive happiness from spending money.  If you struggle with buyer’s remorse or guilt around spending, I highly recommend this book for you.  The concepts in this book have saved me from making big purchases that I absolutely would have regretted and I have a Masters Degree in personal financial planning! Sometimes it is the simple things that are the best things for us.

The tip in this book that has stuck with me for years is the idea of buying experiences versus buying stuff to find happiness.  This tip won’t hit you as something new and profound; I think we all know that experiences with family and friends tend to make us happier longer than the new TV.  And yet, we still find ourselves buying a lot of stuff that will start to collect dust in 3 months.  We especially do this with holiday gifts. 

Focus on Lasting Experiences

So here is my fresh take on how to stay on the happy side of spending when it comes to buying the stuff we need in life. Think about the experience that material item will create beyond the first 30 days of the purchase. Case in point, several years back I was needing to buy some new furniture, specifically a dining room table and a couch. 

OK let’s pause; I used the word need.  In actuality, at that time, I had a dining room table and a couch.  I was unhappy with both for different reasons so a more accurate statement is I wanted to upgrade some of my furniture.  Getting really clear on why you are purchasing something is very foundational to happy spending.  Ok back to my “need” for new furniture. I only had the budget to get one so I needed to choose between a couch and a dining room table. 

Luckily, I had just read Happy Money so I took my time to think about these purchases in the context of experiences.  What experiences would come from having a new couch or a new dining room table?  Why did I want these upgrades and was it to create experiences?  Ultimately, I decided on the table because I love hosting dinner and gathering people around my table.  If you feed people and get them comfortable, they will start to feel that they are in a safe space and the conversation will run deep and sacred.  This is my happy place; I love to have enriching conversations with people especially over food. 

When I thought about the couch, I was really just wanting a new one because I didn’t like the color and shape of the current one.  Thinking about the experience helped me prioritize my spending into a manner that would bring the most happiness beyond the purchase.  I lived with that ugly brown couch and got a bigger table and I could not be happier with my decision. 

As we settle into this month where we spend all the money and eat all the food and as those New Year specials with fitness start to pop up, give yourself the gift of a pause.  Think about your spending in the terms of lasting experiences and let that guide you toward buying happiness.

Tip shared by Jessi Chadd, a certified financial planner (CFP®) and a certified financial transitions specialist (CeFT®). Jessi lives at the intersection of wellness and wealth and enjoys helping people be well in all areas of their life including their finances. For more information on how you can improve your financial wellness, please reach Jessi at Jessi is a co-organizer for Priority Fit Camp. Each week, we publish a health and wellness tip that is shared at the Priority Fit Camp community workout. The free group class happens every Saturday at 7:50 a.m.  

Click for more info on the free Saturday group workout.