I tried out my money speech for the first time at the Invent Your Future Midwest Conference for Women this week. While I have given my speech on time often enough that I know exactly when the audience will laugh or nod, the money material was all new. I’ll be honest. Some of it didn’t work so well. Some of it got people leaning forward. These are things it’s hard to know until you get in front of a live audience.
One of the exercises I think did go over well was asking people to list 5 things they were happy to spend money on this past month. What made you happy to part with your hard-earned cash? People had some good ones: a trip to a highly-experiential museum, a state library card, a plane ticket to visit a cousin, participating in a college reunion, a swimsuit that would let a baby take her first dip in a pool — a purchase that was not so much about the swimsuit as about sharing summer with a new child. Here are a few of mine:
There are others. I’ll be making a donation to the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus soon, which makes me happy to think of the programming and commissions it will enable. Leaving big tips also makes me happy. Basically anything that buys experiences, time, or a stronger connection to humanity.
So what’s the point of this? When we know how, exactly, money buys us happiness, we can make wiser choices about what we do with our money in general. I challenged the audience to write the dollar amount that they spent on each item on their happy lists, and think if there was some way to double the amount spent on at least one item in their joy budgets. While that might not be possible with some items (major trips for instance), for many people it would be possible to go to lunch twice a month instead of once. It would be possible to visit a second museum, or to go to more events in town with friends. We fritter away a lot of money here and there. Better to redeploy those resources in the pursuit of happiness or — at best — a more meaningful life for ourselves and the people we care about.
What made you happiest to spend money on this month? Could you spend more on these things? What would you spend less on (or how could you bring in more money) to make this possible?
New readers: If you’re wondering why I’m blogging and speaking about money…I wrote a personal finance/money philosophy book called All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending, which came out in March. Please check it out!
Photo courtesy flickr user Benson Kua