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Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,154 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
Two professors combine their fascinating and cutting-edge research in behavioral science to explain how money can buy happiness—if you follow five core principles of smart spending.

Most people recognize that they need professional advice on how to earn, save, and invest their money. When it comes to spending that money, most people just follow their intuitions. But scienti
ebook, 224 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 6th 2013)
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Michael Kral It's 5 principles, but they are:

1. Buy Experiences
2. Make it a Treat
3. Buy Time
4. Pay Now, Consume Later
5. Invest in Others
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Dec 03, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the spirit of the authors' recommendations to share, here are my notes from the book. If it interests you, see if you can find it at a library or borrow a copy from a friend.


The goal of the book is NOT to help you earn more, but to change the way you spend your money. Here are five principles the authors put forth to summarize the research of happiness and spending habits:

1. Buy Experiences
Rather then spending your money on material objects (even bigger houses!), you will be more satisfi
Jun 12, 2013 M.C. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The authors of this book are hilarious. They are these professors and most of the book is from a research point-of-view, but then they add these really funny comments. Nothing in the book is too earth shattering, but it is a good reminder of how spending your money thoughtfully can lead to greater happiness. Just for my memory's sake, the five principles they discuss are:
1. Buy Experiences
2. Make it a Treat
3. Buy Time
4. Pay Now, Consume Later
5. Invest in Others

I would've given this book three s
Desiree Zamorano
Jun 19, 2013 Desiree Zamorano rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Desiree by: Marketplace NPR
Shelves: moneywise
I am a big fan of books which help me maximize my life based on my limited span and resources. Happy Money is one of these books, based on 5 simple principles embodied in their chapter headings:
1) Buy Experiences (BUY that concert ticket, plane ticket, adventure, etc)
2) Make it a Treat (RATION those things which bring you pleasure, and you will intensify the pleasure you experience)
3) Buy Time (outsource those tasks you despise)
4)Pay Now, Consume Later
5)Invest in others.

Actually, just typing "in
May 17, 2013 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With celebrity tips and other measures this book is by far one of the best books I've found on money and making it stretch. The five principles are very easy and are some that you would have never thought to use. If you are ready to stop throwing money away and start living a little more freely with more money in your pockets I highly recommend picking this book up and adding it to your collection.
Raluca Popescu
Aug 06, 2015 Raluca Popescu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really, really enjoyed this book. Having gone through quite some material on behavioral economics, both in its pop-psych version and through academic journal articles that I studied and taught, there wasn't so much that felt new in terms of the quoted experiments or their conclusions on how we (often irrationally) act. But Dunn and Norton did a great job in gathering a variety of material and transforming it into an very light, very practical and very funny read.
In order to get "the best happ
André Bueno
The author's wrote this book to bring awareness of the ways we can spend money that will bring us happiness via common sense methods (which to be fair, the authors allude to how "uncommon" common sense may be). The five principles the authors discuss are outlined below-

Instead of spending your hard earned cash on material objects (even that BMW), the author's found that you will be happier with experiential purchases, since they will be more likely to connect you with others an
Oct 28, 2013 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. Having just finished the book, I can't say if following the principles will make you happier, but I'm going to try it out.

The five principles that they discuss are reasonable and backed up by psychological research. I found the authors' use of citations and supporting information very well done... they provided what they needed to back up statements, but didn't too deep into unnecessary details. They also simplified some of the scientific details to be understandable t
Jun 03, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I met Michael Norton last fall at a taping of the Katie Couric show. The topic of the show was happiness and at the time he was writing this book. I found this book fascinating. While most people focus on how much money they earn, this book changes the question to how you can best spend the money you have to give you the greatest happiness. The book is filled with tons of research and interesting statistics, but it is far from a boring read. The authors are quite funny! One of my favorite lesson ...more
Ended up skimming some of the book because of too many silly examples and cheesy humor, but the point was well made. I was hoping this would go into the psychology and neuroscience of decision-making that influences the ways people spend money, but they don't do that at all here. The principles are simple and accessible, I think they offer a good set of questions that should guide people's spending choices, and it's good for them to reorient the conversation towards a value set of using money to ...more
Oct 29, 2013 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone I know needs to go buy this book NOW.

It is the most helpful, encouraging book about happiness I've ever read. Every bit of advice taps into what we already know - that helping other people makes us happier than money alone, that moments are more valuable than things, etc. - and gives you the push you need to actually act on this knowledge.

This book is perfect for:
- college grads
- twenty-somethings
- parents
- retirees
- grandparents
- everyone in between

Seriously - read it. You'll be happie
John Lanza
Apr 11, 2016 John Lanza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Happy Money is full of enlightening information and strategies about how to use money as a tool to help you buy more happiness. Dunn and Norton explain to us why we must even trick ourselves to use money in our best interests. For example, it's interesting, though maybe not surprising, to learn that one of the reasons that more money doesn't make us happy is because the value of our time increases. Knowing that your make more per hour leads to increased stress about the hours you are not working ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Jim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Jeez, I struggled badly to get past Chapter One of this book. It is a litany of Middle Class Problems. Chapter One assumes that you have a wad to begin with and goes on to explain why you should buy "experiences" before "things" with your cash to make you happy. But what experiences? We are given an example of a women called Liz's ideal holiday, that of surfing a different Nicaraguan beach every day. Nothing as mundane as an Australian or Californian beach, clearly. It seems that you should spen ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Eva rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The core principles:

1. Buy experiences - They make us happier than material goods.

2. Make it a treat - It's not exciting if it happens all the time.

3. Buy time - Enough said.

4. Pay now, consume later - This removes the pain of pleasure from the pleasure of consumption, plus anticipation brings added pleasure.

5. Invest in others - Giving and sharing make us happy.

Some kindle quotes:

as the Roman philosopher Seneca put it, “Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember.”23 - location 298

Ian Robertson
Dec 31, 2014 Ian Robertson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most financial guidebooks tell us how to make more money, but academics Elizabeth Dunn (UBC) and Michael Norton (Harvard) tell us something different: how best to spendthe money we have. Their answer is delivered in five chatty chapters, each with a central point to help us spend smarter and become happier:

Buy Experiences
Make It A Treat
Buy Time
Pay Now, Consume Later
Invest In Others

In the first chapter the authors tell us that experiences, even somewhat negative experiences, are looked back upon
Dec 21, 2014 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious book with a lot of great lessons on how to spend money.

Fave clips:
The % of trips taken in the US that use public transit, walking, or biking? 11% (89% are by car)

What matters the most for human well-being? Social relationships.

Taking a job that requires an hour-long commute each way has a negative effect on happiness similar in magnitude to not having a job at all.

There is a danger to time-saving products. Their widespread availability may spur us to buy things, from two-in-one shampo
Nov 20, 2014 Gordon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How should you spend your money in order to gain greater happiness? That's the question asked and answered by this book. Here are the five principles that the authors believe create the path to happier spending:

1) Buy experiences that you share with those you care about, not more stuff. Buy a $700 new chair for your living room, and pretty soon you will take it for granted. Spend that same amount of money on a great long weekend of skiing with friends, and you will remember it a long time -- in
Glenn Myers
The takeaway message from this book is just about as good as the book itself. Here's the five principles of spending your money in such a way as to extract the most happiness out it:

1. Buy experiences - especially shared, unique ones, linked with your sense of who you want to be. They contribute to lasting happiness more than stuff.
2. Make it a treat. Beware 'treat slippage' (my phrase) where something you do for a luxury becomes something you do regularly (and then stop noticing and enjoying).
Sep 23, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good social psychology book for anyone interested in studies that explore the intersection of happiness and money. The conclusions were interesting and the writing was accessible. As a little test for myself, I know that there were five main chapters or conclusions about money so I'll see how many I can remember after finishing this book during my morning run today:
1. Spend on experiences, instead of "stuff"
2. Give money away to specific people to feel happier
3. Make it a treat, whatever "it"
Aug 17, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 4.5

I was instantly intrigued by the approach of this book, when I heard about it on NPR. It seems like an obvious topic, but one I have not seen addressed before: How can I change my spending habits to increase the enjoyment in life? The authors did a wonderful job laying out their findings, and offering oodles of supporting evidence.

An added bonus was the wit and great writing. I never thought I would laugh as hard as I did reading a book about money. I loved the pop culture references like
Leonidas Kaplan
Jun 11, 2014 Leonidas Kaplan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending
by Elizabeth Dunn, Michael Norton

An informative read when you finally have a disposable income, or land on a windfall of cash.

Let's briefly cover the 5 points in the book, and provide a subjective analysis.

1. Buy Experiences
Instead of forking over for a new car, consider paying into a vacation, an event, or anything that does not consist of material goods. While that latest gadget, or clothing item might seem like a necessity to be cool and interesting
Mar 29, 2014 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Contends spending correctly brings happiness. The authors have 5 contentions that they say science can show us how to spend our money more efficiently to achieve happiness. I think they miss the mark in that they seem to still cling to the belief that spending money is what we should focus on to find happiness. I guess if that is how you make yourself happy this is the book for you! The authors did irk me by I believe miss-stating that the slow movement says we have less time than we did in the ...more
Feb 08, 2014 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
sensible stuff based on happiness research, with special reference to spending wisely. Not in the vein of spending less or earning more, but making whatever you do spend count in terms of what is most likely to make you satisfied with your life.

so for instance they advise investing in experiences rather than things/stuff because most people get more of a kick out of, say, having seen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band multiple times on 1984 tour (for instance) than they would have gotten fr
Loads of unnecessary repetition, but Dunn & Norton make their points clear.

In a nutshell (using a Starbucks gift card as an example),
...a Starbucks gift card provided the most happiness when people used it to buy coffee for someone else, while accompanying them to Starbucks--which allowed them not only to invest in others, but also to buy an experience, and change the way they spent their time that day (buy time). And in your daily life, you could knock off the other two principles by payi
Melanie Mauer
Jul 05, 2015 Melanie Mauer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If abundance is the enemy of appreciation, scarcity may be our best ally." Think of the authors favorite treats - they're available for a limited time each year: candy corn (October), peppermint stick ice cream (December)

"If our choices reveal what we live best, TV must be the most super terrific thing ever. And yet, study after study shows that people experience less pleasure while watching TV than while engaging in more active forms of leisure, including walking the dog."

"Within American citi
Tariq Mahmood
This is a short book bent on statistically proving that having money does not automatically guarantee happiness. Happiness can only be attained through the experience of doing something rather than actually acquiring commodities. But the experience of acquiring stuff can be satisfying for human as well. For in order to give (for maximum happiness) we must first possess in abundance. People in developing countries are forever investing into building insurance against insecurity which plagues life ...more
Oct 30, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a super easy quick read with easily understandable principles. It was nice to see that Nik and I are doing many things right, in terms of how we spend our money relative to personal happiness. It also has solidified our resolve to not have a TV and that it's better for us to spend our money on travel (experiences) rather than stuff through out the year.
Jan 20, 2014 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
In trying to enforce my new year resolution of buying less STUFF, I read "Happy Money", a self help book that provides guidelines on spending your money better in order to increase happiness. Many reviewers have already listed the principles-- like buying experiences instead of objects, paying now instead of later, investing in others, buying time, and treating indulgences like treats-- they all seem like they are "obvious" tips. But an obvious way to lose weight is to eat more veggies and fruit ...more
Jun 12, 2015 Dido rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A slightly different take on the money & happiness question by focusing not on how much money do we need to be happy, but on how the way that we spend our money can make us happy--both by what we spend it on and the process of spending. They elaborate on five core ideas and explain how individuals, businesses, and governments can use each to promote well-being. The five key ideas are: 1. Buy Experiences; 2. Make it a Treat (i.e., do things like go out to eat only occasionally rather than dai ...more
Celia Montgomery
Oct 13, 2014 Celia Montgomery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a seriously useful book (that is also funny!). I finished it in about a day. The authors (both psychologists) compile the results of numerous studies to determine how best to spend your cash. The only goal is increased happiness. The results aren't surprising, but they are convincing. A grossly simplified summary would be:

1. Spend on experiences, not possessions;
2. Spend on opportunities to spend time with others.
3. Give money away (in a personal way);
4. Don't accumulate debt;
5. Pay for
Jan 11, 2015 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
Interesting and well-researched. They do assume that you have enough money to put food on your table and a job that pays your retirement. But, other than some obvious assumptions, their advice was based on the research of what actually raises the overall happiness factor. They essentially broke it down to doing 5 things:

1. Buy experiences
2. Make it a treat (the anticipation increases the happiness more than actually having the item)
3. Buy Time (have a short commute, etc.)
4. Pay now, consume late
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Elizabeth Dunn is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. At age twenty-six, she was featured as one of the “rising stars” across all of academia by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has been featured in top academic journals, including two recent papers in Science, and in hundreds of media outlets worldwide.
More about Elizabeth Dunn...

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“Looking back on their past decisions about whether to purchase experiences, 83 percent of people sided with Mark Twain, reporting that their biggest single regret was one of inaction, of passing up the chance to buy an experience when the opportunity came along.” 2 likes
“Next time you reach for your wallet to buy a metaphorical rubber frog, don’t let the lure of the material induce you to forgo all the happiness benefits of the experiential.” 0 likes
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