Money & Happiness by Jane Thurnell-Read
Money doesn’t buy you happiness, at least not once you’ve met your basic needs and have a bit more for emergencies, fun, personal development and maybe to support your children or give to your favourite charity. But though most people know that money doesn’t buy happiness, most of us act as though it does.
There’s always the thought that if we had a little bit more (we’re not being greedy) we’d be OK. It’s a seductive idea, but it keeps us enthralled and never quite satisfied with what we already have.
I know people who have a lot more money than me, but are they happy? Do they moan and complain less? I don’t think so. But, of course, if we had more money, we wouldn’t be like this, would we? We’d be grateful and happy … but would we?
When I first started my own business, I was fortunate that my income went up each year in real terms. I was always pleased by that, but then would think: I’d still like a bit more, then I can buy clothes by so-and-so or upgrade my car or drink better wine. There was always something that I could clearly envisage doing with the money that would make me happy. As I bought more expensive clothes, the next echelon up, the next more exclusive range, became tantalizingly but dissatisfyingly just outside my reach. But all would be well, I knew with certainty, once I was able to afford the next level up.
One year I realised how foolish I was. With this attitude I was waiting to be happy until I reached a certain income level, but the trouble was that income level went up every year. There was always someone who had a bit more than me – I envied them and wanted what they had. I never reached an acceptable income level so I was never going to be happy.
I decided to change all that and to accept the level of income I had and be happy with it. I decided to adopt the life style and spending I had right now as good enough for me for the rest of my life. I was going to stop seeking more and stop believing (as an important sign of success and self-worth.
I still find myself slipping back into my old way of thinking sometimes, but mainly I live at the standards I set those years ago. I’m mostly happy,
happier than friends and colleagues who have lots more money than me. I see money as important, but not that important that I’m prepared to put enjoyment, spontaneity and happiness on hold while I achieve it. My guess is that many of my friends believe I earn more than I do, because I appear to have a careless attitude to money. This is not because I have huge amounts of it, but because I have tailored my wants to a set amount of money rather than having wants that will never be assuaged no matter how much I have. Instead I know that I can meet most of my wants, so I don’t have that: “If only I had enough money, I’d buy …” thought or conversation very often.
My mobile phone is several versions old, but does all the things I want it to, and anyway I don’t want the pain and aggravation of trying to understand all the features a new phone would offer me only to decide I won’t use them. My car is reliable and good enough at the moment. I buy most of my clothes from charity shops and the Oxfam online shop
and change them often, completely transforming my wardrobe. A friend offered to teach me about wine, but I told him that I didn’t want to learn more, because right now I could go into just about any restaurant and be happy with the house wine, so why would I want to learn how to be dissatisfied with wine?
I buy books from charity shops – at the moment I want to read Stieg Larsson’s series of four books – I have two of them but can’t start reading because I don’t have the first one yet. Can you imagine how excited I will be when I go into a charity shop and see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
sat on the shelf? The thrill of being at last able to read that series of books will be far greater than any temporary thrill I might have got by buying them instantly on Amazon.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have extravagances. I do, for example, love to go to Rigby and Pellar to buy underwear, and as a keen cyclist I like buying new clothes and equipment for my bike.
Of course, for some people money is a daily struggle, but most of us could be a lot happier without the belief that we need just a bit more money.
Copyright 2010 Jane Thurnell-ReadGet a different health and happiness tip delivered to your inbox every day.