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:
- Lunch (a lobster roll) at Legal Sea Foods in the Philadelphia airport. If traffic is light and I get to the airport in enough time, this is my treat.
- Renting bikes at Valley Forge. The park has a long loop around it that takes you past various cannons and cabins, but the best part is the vast quantity of open space shockingly close to the King of Prussia mall. We’ve been renting kid carriers, and it’s fun to have a way to exercise with the children. It is also an incredibly good workout to haul 40 lbs of kid up a hill.
- Tickets for Light, the art installation at Longwood Gardens. I blogged about this in my post on “A Summer of Saying Yes.”
- A few date nights with my husband. Babysitting adds quite a bit to the cost of dinner, but with two jobs and three kids age 5 and under, I think it’s worth every penny.
- Beautiful little sundresses for my beautiful little girl. My oldest two kids are boys, and while they are adorable too, little boy clothes are not nearly as much fun as little girl clothes. I’d eyed frilly frocks for years and bought them for my friends’ babies, but being able to buy them for my own daughter is this silly little pleasure.
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