Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Review: Happy Money

I wanted to like Happy Money. As Meng once said to me, "Those who say that money can't buy happiness don't know where to shop." And indeed, the premise of the book is sound: there are many things that most people do with their money that buys a lot of frustration instead of happiness, and they're well documented in literature:

  • Buying a bigger house doesn't buy you happiness, but buying a shorter commute (one you can walk to or bike to) does.
  • Buying experiences like great vacations is far better than buying the latest Apple/Android/Lenovo product. You get used to your faster computer quickly, but you'll always remember the great experiences you had on your vacation.
  • Whenever possible trade money for time, so that you can have more time for yourself. This is hard because if you're paid more, you value your free time even more, so it's difficult to buy enough free time. House-cleaning services and yard work services are examples of such valuable money/time trade-offs.
  • Spending money on other people is better than spending money on yourself.
There. I've probably given you the gist of the book. My wife asked me if I learned anything new in the book that I didn't already know from reading other happiness studies.

  • The book claims that interacting with children is the highlight of many people's days. This contradicts many other studies I've read where interacting with their children usually leaves parents unhappy. In fact, most studies I've read indicate that having children is a surefire way to destroy your happiness.
  • The book claims that paying for something first and then enjoying it later gives you the feeling that what you're enjoying is "free", which is nice. I personally find myself skeptical of this experience.
  • Apparently, even bad vacations are better expenditures than buying a bigger house. But there are no studies on how small a house you can have before having a bigger house makes you happier just because you're not hitting something every time you turn around.
The book is extremely short. If you're not careful you'll blow through it in a few hours. I do recommend the content in the book if you've not been exposed to it before, but I'd hesitate to spend full price on the book: check it out from the library instead.

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