Happy people manage their money differently than the rest of the world - and are happier for it.

Sure, impulse purchases can make you happier in the moment... but wouldn’t it be great if that post-shopping guilt never kicked in?

Turns out scientists are working to figure out how to make spending equate to smiling - and not in the retail therapy kind of way. We’re talking healthy spending. Yes, there is such a thing!

Don’t believe it?

Just ask researcher Ryan Howell at San Francisco State University who co-founded Beyond The Purchase as a means of sharing his findings from his work on the psychology behind spending.

Think before you buy - and be happier for it

So far, he’s found that happy people spend differently than unhappy people. Consciously or not, they apply an entirely different system to their spending habits. So which came first - the chicken or the egg? Does spending smart make us happier people; or do happy people naturally make smarter purchasing decisions? Either way you flip it, happiness is directly correlated to smart spending. What’s not to smile about there?

So just what do the happiest people we know do differently in the checkout line? Let’s take a look...

7 things happier people do differently

  1. They get out of credit card debt

This is a big one; it’s the very first thing you need to do to maximize happiness, according to Dr. Howell. The financial stress of debt will mar any perceived joy you might feel throughout the day, he noted, adding that it’s pretty much the worst thing in the world for your happiness.

  1. They save or invest a quarter of leftover earnings

Once the mortgage is paid, the credit card balance is covered, and this week’s groceries are all piled into the pantry, save or invest about a quarter of what’s left. If savings are already accounted for in your budget, put away a little extra each month.

  1. They do unto others

Happy people give about 12 percent of their leftover earnings to charities, cause organizations, or as gifts to other people. Generosity goes a long way (particularly for your mood).

  1. They write down everything they buy

Tracking your spending takes the excitement out of spur-of-the-moment purchases. In time, your brain will start critically assessing every purchase decision you make.

  1. They use cash instead of credit

Research shows it’s much easier to spend beyond your means when you charge it to your credit card - but that same experience is more painful when you pay with cash. Credit cards may carry a high interest rate on that balance, but they don’t carry the same immediate pang of guilt that cash does. Leave your credit card at home for (occasional) online buys and let the cash in your wallet help you make up your mind on that next purchase.

  1. They focus on experiential purchases 

The happiest people you know likely spend money on things that create memories and improve their quality of life. In fact, they commit about 40 percent of their leftover earnings to life experiences. They’ll dole out cash on board games and resort trips - but they might not be so excitable when it comes to those not-so-shameless shopping sprees.

  1. They have a clear goal

Perhaps most compelling is that people actually report more enjoyment from saving than from spending, according to a recent Gallup poll. So why do we persist with the purchase? Dr. Howell believes it might be due to a lack of a clear goal. Rather than think, “I’m going to save a whole bunch of money,” make that goal sound more like, “I’m going to go to Paris next summer.” Not only will you get more enjoyment from saving, you’ll be feeling tres bien about it come next summer.

Smart money is happy money 

Money can’t buy happiness, but spending it the right way will make you feel better! There are ways to make your spending habits more rewarding. All it takes is a little brain power.


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