Spending habits, Family life

Can money really buy you happiness?

Karen Johanne Iversen 06-06-2019 - 3 min read

You’ve been saving up for more than 6 months. And finally, you have enough money in the bank to finally buy that Macbook you’ve always dreamed about having. Your hands are eager to click on the power button for the first time and you can’t wait to feel the joy of walking out of the store with the new laptop in the bag.

But not long after you bought the computer of your dreams, everything is back to normal. The rush of buying the new computer has disappeared. Now, the laptop you’ve spend all your hard-earned money on is just a part of your everyday life like much of the other stuff you’re surrounded with.   

We sat down with one of the leading happiness researchers in Denmark, Christian Bjørnskov, to talk about the connection between money and happiness. We asked him if money can buy happiness. And in short, his answer was yes.

Let’s hear what he said so you can learn how you can manage your finances in a way that makes you happier.

Travel, eat out or go to a concert - experiences make you happy

In the 1950s and 1960s, the economy was in progress. That gave us more money to spend on new stuff that we normally wouldn’t even be thinking about spending money on. Like travelling to foreign countries. Back then, taking a plane to go on vacation for a week was quite the revolution. Thousands of people started to travel to islands such as Mallorca or Rhodes. As time has passed, we haven’t stopped travelling. And with good reason, the happiness researcher, Christian Bjørnskov, says:

“Experiences such as travels or vacations make us happier in the long run. As opposed to buying materialistic goods such as a new car or a new jacket, we often appreciate vacations for a longer time because of the memory of the experience", he explains and continues:

“When we’re going on vacation, we’re experiencing a new culture and different people. Maybe we’re trying a new salad while we’re abroad that we love. As we try to make that salad at home, it makes our everyday lives less boring and more exotic. Situations like that make us feel happier for longer because of the holiday."

Consider if you can live with a smaller car

Going to a concert, the cinema or a weekend trip to another country can increase happiness in your life - also in the long run.

But what about the new Macbook that we mentioned in the beginning of the story? Is that a stupid thing to invest in if you want to live a happier life?

According to Christian Bjørnskov, the simple answer is no:

“You just need to consider if you actually need the biggest and most expensive car or if you can live with a smaller and cheaper version. Material goods only give you a momentarily feeling of happiness, and that’s why you shouldn't spend all your money on the newest Macbook, most expensive car or design furniture."

Put your money in the piggy-bank

When professors and researchers point out that money can buy happiness, it’s not just about what we buy. It’s also about how much money that’s in our bank account:

“Studies show that if you want to be happier, it’s important not to use all your money at once. Having a fixed savings account is one of the factors that makes us happier”, Christian Bjørnskovs explains.

That’s the reason why we can feel safe and happier in our everyday lives:

“Financial security makes us happy. If you have saved up, you don’t need to stress out if something suddenly happens”, the happiness researcher says.  

Is there a recipe for happiness?  

So does that mean you should travel as much as possible, switch to a smaller car and put a lot of money on your savings account?

“Well, the simple answer is yes, but we can never give you the right recipe for happiness. We can only look at the studies and see what works on an overall level. What makes us happy on an individual level is very subjective”, he concludes.