The equivalent of making your bed

I’ve mentioned The Happiness Project several times on this blog over the past two years (I enjoyed the book quite a bit — and I usually don’t enjoy memoirs). Gretchen Rubin’s tale of working to be happier is not particularly prescriptive. But when she did interviews, people wanted tips. What can I do to be happier right now? So she complied, and one of her most quoted tips is to make your bed in the morning

So, I’ve been pondering: what is the money/happiness equivalent of making your bed? That is, what is a simple way people can use money to make themselves happier?

I think the soundbite answer is “Treat a friend to lunch.” If I get more words, I’d say “Make plans to treat a friend to lunch next week,” but probably “treat a friend to lunch” sounds better. Planning fun experiences in advance heightens our enjoyment of them because we savor the anticipation (indeed, we enjoy it almost as much as the experience itself!). Humans are social creatures, and we love spending time with people who are close to us. Lunch with a friend is an investment in your social network. Food is enjoyable too. In studies of how much people enjoy different aspects of their days, it’s right up there with sex. As for treating? Spending money on other people is highly correlated with happiness. And if you treat a friend, she’ll probably reciprocate, which means you’ll get to have your fun twice.

There are other ways to buy happiness, of course, but I think this is a good start.

What expenditure always brings you happiness?

8 thoughts on “The equivalent of making your bed

  1. This is funny because I always feel inordinately proud of myself when I make my bed in the morning. But, if I don’t make it by noon then it seems like it’s not worth the time and every time I walk past it, I think, ‘What a loser. I didn’t even make my bed.’
    I’m going to have to put ‘The Happiness Project’ on my library book list. Have you read ‘The Geography of Bliss’? It sounds like its along the same lines as Happiness Project.

    1. @Kelly- I haven’t read The Geography of Bliss. I will have to check it out. I need something else to read right now. I go back and forth on the bed-making thing. I like a nicely made bed as much as anyone, but I also know that people lose vast amounts of time to housework, and feel like they’ve done something, when the house just gets messy again.

  2. I like take a friend to lunch.

    Another one that always works for me is “take a class.” It helps me pursue a passion or start a new one or, even, just try one on for size. It’s often money well spent and, often, not that much money. The continuing ed classes at our local community college are a bargain!

  3. NOT making my bed brings me happiness. I never understood why I would have to make it only to unmake it again at night, and it seemed like such a huge time-suck for my mom to go around the house making all the beds. On top of that DH and I can’t share covers because he’s so big he creates a draft.

    An unmade bed symbolizes happiness, coziness, and freedom to me.

    And yes, we also live in squalor. It is freeing.

    I don’t think any expenditure always brings happiness. With every expenditure, you stop once the marginal utility from an additional unit reaches zero. At some point it isn’t worth the additional expense.

    1. I meant to say “use money to make myself happier” I got so excited thinking about it, I couldn’t finish the sentence.

      1. @Linda- sounds pretty exciting to me too! I love massages. Still have to talk myself into spending the money but oh is it nice when I do…

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