by Caden K.
I remember the days when I would go to the store with my mom and beg her for some sort of treat. From ice cream and Snickers bars to fascinating colored bouncy-balls, I had to have something. My mother made it very clear that such spoils were not to be handed out without purpose. She convinced me that our money has value beyond the monetary number the government assigns it, and that value can yield us more or less happiness depending on how we spend it. Every instance I obtained a special treat was made that much more special, and gave me an extra hint of joy and warmth. Since then, I've been convinced that cash can create happiness, but only if I use it right.
“Money can’t buy happiness” has been famously quoted since we were children in hopes of pushing young people to dream beyond cash-valued successes in life. However, a quote I find far more accurate is one from writer and art collector Gertrude Stein: “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” While money itself may not bring about happiness, nor bring us close to the true, pure joys we can encounter in life, it can certainly boost one’s state of being, making the miseries of life a little more pleasant. This, of course, is only true if that valuable wad of paper is spent the right way.
Humans are naturally unsatisfied with most aspects of life. Why do people craze over a new smartphone that functions virtually the same as previous generations? Why do interests vacillate so relentlessly growing up? The answer is simple: we, myself included, can’t settle for anything. Whatever is new, whatever is fresh, whatever is the “next best thing” is what I, and many others, suddenly feel a compulsive need to have, regardless of its practicality. According to Dan Gilbert, psychology professor at Harvard, the joy a person experiences surrounding an object isn’t necessarily the joy they know it will bring them in the future; it’s that “day you get [insert literally anything]” that a person thinks about and craves. It’s the first day with the new car, the moment I buy a new phone, or the second I upgrade my computer; that’s where the joy lies.
None of these moments would be possible without money, and the more money a person has, the more often these experiences can be lived. However, why spend so much time and currency on fleeting moments? Isn’t that the whole point of “money can’t buy happiness?”
Money can move beyond the ephemeral moments of initial gratification that we obsess over. Much of the experiences I have had with friends and family have created lasting memories that can be looked back upon with great nostalgia and pleasure, and it starts with the money used to set up these situations. According to a Harvard Business Review study, “more vacation results in… lower stress and more happiness,” and these vacation opportunities, more often than not, require cash to accomplish. Sure, going to a public beach or running around in the woods on a camping trip are joyful enough, but being the anticipatory, unsatisfied creatures we are, wouldn’t it be even more entertaining to add jet skiing to the list of festivities at the beach, or an ATV adventure while perusing the forest? All of these can heighten one’s experiences and get people outside of their comfort zones, yielding an increased level of “living” that is full of joy and new experiences.
Money may not be able to physically buy happiness, but it can absolutely create the opportunity to find it. With such despair surrounding much of modern life, it is imperative that outlets of joy are found so as to have something to hold onto and improve our lives with. I might not be able to physically purchase my happiness, but I certainly can buy the tools to build a life of joy that fits my desires, and it all begins with the thing people chase after for their entire lives: money.
"Gertrude Stein Quotes." BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2021. 6 December 2021. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/gertrude_stein_163501.
Futrelle, David. “Here's How Money Really Can Buy You Happiness.” Time, Time Magazine, 7 Aug. 2017, https://time.com/4856954/can-money-buy-you-happiness/.
Achor, Shawn, and Michelle Giellan. “The Data-Driven Case for Vacation.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Review, 27 Aug. 2021, https://hbr.org/2016/07/the-data-driven-case-for-vacation.