Can Money Buy Happiness?

Has anyone every asked you: "Can money buy happiness?" Perhaps the answer seems so obvious that rarely does anyone bother to pose the question.

Well, now that it's posed, let's answer it. The short answer is: No, it can't buy happiness, but there sure are a lot of folks out there trying to prove me wrong. So many people, that I believe the whole question deserves a little attention.

It seems obvious or intuitive that happiness cannot be purchased.

Happiness is an emotion that general shows that we're okay, doing fine, and enjoying our lives. It doesn't seem likely that such a sense of being okay could come from buying things.

Our challenge is to stay on our journey of frugality so we can achieve our worthwhile goals. It's challenging, but let's not be fooled by the idea that happiness can be purchased with indebtedness.

For those out there trying to buy happiness, I think you're more likely to purchase yourself trouble and unhappy times ahead. I've seen it happen firsthand, so I have direct experience in the matter.

Happiness - a definition

To examine the question can money buy happiness, let's look at what happiness is. Merriam Webster's Unabridged Dictionary tells us that happiness is:

  • A state of well-being characterized by relative permanence, by dominantly agreeable emotion ranging in value from mere contentment to deep and intense joy in living, and by a natural desire for its continuation.

  • The general term denoting enjoyment of or pleasurable satisfaction in well-being, security, or fulfillment of wishes.

The idea is clear that happiness is a pleasing emotional state that reflects well-being, security and fulfillment in life, and the emotional state is so pleasing that we naturally want it to continue.

Let's also get a handle on well-being because it seems a bit unclear to me. Again, Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines well-being as:

  • A condition characterized, or prosperity.
  • Moral or physical welfare.
So, the additional direction we get from this definition is that happiness is health, prosperity and doing well with respect to our sense of right and wrong.

So, the answer to can money buy happiness must address our ability to purchase: health; prosperity; security; fulfillment of wishes; and, good character.

Happiness - a closer look at the elements

With all those definitions in mind, let's ask the question can money buy happiness in the form of:

  • health
  • prosperity
  • security
  • fulfillment of wishes
  • good character - it can't be purchased, but money can help us have it if we decide in favor of proper nutrition and seeking medical care and good living conditions that are conducive to good health.

Can money buy happiness (health)? No, it can't be purchased, but you can take action to achieve better health.

...prosperity - it's more an outcome of having money rather than spending it. Investments can be made to make yourself more prosperous, but prosperity can't be purchased.

Can money buy happiness (prosperity)? No, you create prosperity through wise investment of your resources, with money being one of those resources. - it can't be purchased. Again, it's a type of investment that you initiate. Being prepared most certainly influences our sense of security, but that can't be purchased - it takes initiative.

Can money buy happiness (security)? No, you create your own sense of security by having money set aside for emergencies, and by investing it in preparedness.

...fulfillment of wishes - most material wishes can be purchased if you have sufficient money. Other forms of fulfillment in life cannot be purchased at any price. Try purchasing honor, respect, admiration or achievement, and you'll fall flat on your face.

Can money buy happiness (fulfillment of wishes)? Only the material ones, but nothing of great import. The important ones you'll have to achieve on your own.

...good character - it can't be purchased at any price. You either have it or you don't. In fact, how you spend your money is one good indicator of character.

Can money buy happiness (good character)? No, not at all. Character depends on your decisions and actions.

Putting it Together

With all the foregoing fresh in our mind, let's pose the question again: Can money buy happiness? It seems that the core elements of happiness cannot be purchased at all, but must be attained by your initiative.

Money can be an important resource used to support achieving some of the elements, but your initiative must be brought to bear in order to be successful, and that is a much more important ingredient than money.

This need for initiative applies especially in the areas of health, prosperity, security and character. All of these things are achieved through your actions, and these represent the overwhelming majority of the elements that define happiness.

Only fulfillment of material wishes can be purchased, and that's just a small part of what makes us have a feeling of fulfillment.

So, if we're trying to buy happiness through material things, then we're banking on items that lose their shine, get scratched and dented, go out of fashion, and are prone to failure, damage, loss and degradation.

It doesn't sound like much of a worthwhile pursuit. It's clear that our initiatives determine the level of happiness in our lives much more than anything else.

Our Unreasonable Expectations

Somewhere along the way, some of us were convinced that a place, a thing or a person could make us happy, and money could easily bring us those things. We failed to realize that many people are unhappy no matter where they are located, no matter what possessions they have, and no matter who they are with, and no matter how much money they have.

Just look at the very visible crowd in Hollywood. They have fame, criminal charges, international popularity, multiple divorces, worldwide travel, arrests, mansions, lawsuits, servants, drug problems, celebrity status, and suicide attempts.

Quite a mixed bag for folks that could buy happiness if it were available for purchase.

We need to temper our expectations a bit to see that happiness depends on who we are as defined by our initiatives. In the end we're all stuck with ourselves and the decisions we make and the initiatives we take.

It's the old saying: "No matter where you go, you'll always be there."

The Answer is Clear

So, our happiness is based largely on our view of ourselves; who we are and what we've done with our lives. That's what really sticks with us long after we've lost interest in where we are, what we have, who we're with or how much money we have.

Can money buy happiness? No, but you can create happiness for yourself by working toward becoming the person you know you should be.

Can money buy happiness? No, but you can create more happiness for yourself by making better decisions when it comes to important matters in your life.

Can money buy happiness? No, but you'll be happier if you stop placing yourself in unhappy situations.

Can money buy happiness? No, it's all about you taking the initiative to achieve

What say you, my frugal living friends? Can money buy happiness for you?

Here's what others have to say.

Done with Can Money Buy Happiness, take be back to Frugality

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.