Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Money and Happiness

They say that money can't buy happiness.  My personal opinion is that they're right, but money can buy a lot of happiness tools.

I found out last week that I will be taking ten furlough days at work in the next six months, equating to a 10% pay cut.  I also discovered, on crunching the numbers, that my current income/spending gap is much less than 10%.  This means that I have to make cuts in my current lifestyle or I will very quickly run out of money.  These changes mean less time to pursue hobbies, read, connect with people, or relax.  I do understand that many people live on much less than I make.  I also understand that I managed to be reasonably happy living near the poverty level at one point (or rather, that my unhappiness then had little to do with money).  It's the sensation of moving backwards that's so frustrating for me.  I've built up a lot of momentum in the last few years.  I've made a lot of progress digging my way out from old debts without creating new ones, finding money to do home improvement projects or take vacations, and putting a little away.  Ten years ago I'd have been ecstatic with my post-cut pay, but now it's a huge step in the wrong direction.  I suddenly feel like I've been Sisyphus all my life and will continue to push my financial rock up the hill over and over for the rest of my days.

This makes my happiness project harder.  It also makes the project more necessary than ever.  For a while my resolutions will be framed around the financial crunch in my life, but I need to remember to break out of it occasionally for some self care.

Old Resolutions:

My resolutions last week were to try new recipes involving capers (part of the overall goal of a more varied diet), to use one of my hoarded fancy lotions every day, and to clean out two drawers in the kitchen hutch.  The last one was a bust so it carries over to this week.  The new recipes may need to go on hold because I won't be able to afford a lot of new ingredients that can't be used in several dishes, and need to concentrate on things that will carry over to lunch the next day. The fancy lotions resolution was a success and I've smelled like white jasmine all week.

I'm coming down with a cold, so I've been craving grapefruit for the last two days.  Funny how I haven't eaten one for a decade, but after the first week's experiment eating it every day my body knows to crave it when I need the vitamin boost. 

New Resolutions:

Environment: Clean out two drawers of kitchen hutch
Finances:  Eat breakfast at home and make/bring lunch to work every day (no more takeout or deli)
Finances:  Limit groceries to $80/week

Currently Reading:

Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding

Currently re-reading:

The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell


Heidi said...

I make breakfast and bring it in to work (frozen breakfast burritos) but I find that I need to let myself buy lunch once a week to not feel overly deprived. You may find something similar?

Elizebeth Turnquist said...

My mom and I like to say that money can't buy you happiness, once you're over the median income (about $60,000 a year), but NOT having enough money to survive can make you very unhappy.

Lori said...

Elizebeth, studies I've seen bear that out, pretty much. Money doesn't make people happy, but poverty does make them unhappy. Once people reach a certain income there's no increase in happiness that comes with more money, but up to a certain point there is. People who make $50K a year are a lot happier than people who make $10K, on average, but people who make $5 million are not happier to any meaningful extent than the people making $50K. More money definitely has diminishing returns on happiness.

Sean said...

Good luck trying to have a more varied diet. I think money can buy a lot of happiness tools, like electricity, games, computers, vacations, money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy things to make you happy.