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Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,721 Ratings  ·  225 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
Hardcover, 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

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was ok
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
Raluca Popescu
Jul 13, 2015 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
Desiree Zamorano
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A self-help book gifted to me by my investment advisors Halbert Hargrove. Good read that I would like to think re-enforced the spending strategies I have followed over the years. Two examples were our relatively modest home purchase in 1995 and our long-standing strategy to own our cars for long periods of time (currently 13 years for E and 11 years for me). Here is a summary of the lessons if you don't want to read the details in the book:

1. Buy experiences not stuff.

a. The experience brings y
I wasn't sure how many stars to give this one because it isn't the type of book I usually dig into. I decided to hover over each star to see what they actually meant and settled on two because it means, "it was ok." And it was "ok." I certainly didn't like it, but I did find some parts to be interesting. I read this after receiving it for free through the website I wasn't asked to write a review on here, but I decided since I had to sit through it and will have to put a review on t ...more
André Bueno
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Mohamed Al Sayyah
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
كتاب رشيق وخفيف وممتع، يحاول الإجابة على سؤال أزلي وهو علاقة المال بالسعادة وهل من الممكن شراء السعادة بالمال، أو كيف يمكن زيادة السعادة بتغيير طريقة تعاملنا مع المال.
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ha Truong
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: development
It's surprising not how much you have earned makes you happy, but how you spend does. And spending for others can make a longer lasting happiness than spending for yourself.

Besides, this book is against the motto to consume now, pay later. Instead you should plan and save up for stuff you would buy. The gratification of having the things you want right now can end up a big debt in future, and your ego grows up as well.

But... actually I am working on solution like that, should I stop? :D
Philip Athans
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Though I thought it a little light on actionable tactics, this book makes a solid case for changing the way we spend money that I think can have a positive effect on all of us. I made myself an exercise, which was to take each of their five points--buy experiences, make it a treat, buy time, pay now consume later, and invest in others--and listed three ways I'm already following that advice then three things I can add to my life to that end. That yielded some good ideas. We'll see how it works o ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I hovered between giving this book 2 or 3 stars; I've landed on 3 because I found a majority of the book fairly fascinating (until the end). I find that I did skimmed or skipped parts that described heavily the studies and science behind every spending principle.

The five principles are:
Buy Experiences
Make it a Treat
Buy Time
Pay Now, Consume Later
Invest in Others

The thing that knocked a star off this book is the Epilogue (Zooming Out Chapter) where the authors delve into government spending/distr
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
For as long as I waited for this book on the hold list, it is surprisingly simplistic, offering basically nothing new. I also wasn't thrilled about how the authors tried to make it "relatable" by overusing self-anecdotes, to the point that it didn't seem at all scientific.

There was also some advice that just doesn't work--instead of spending $200,000 on a house, buy an experience! Except...not buying a house doesn't mean that you have $200,000 to blow, it just means that you're spending a fairl
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
The book would have done better as a magazine article. The authors offer five ways to spend money that would make you happier:Buy Experience, Make It a Treat, Buy Time, Pay first - consume later, Invest in Others. Their research and conclusions are not radically new ideas. Some material such as a rant against using your time to watch TV -- seemed dated. In their final chapter :Investing in Others, they offer a detailed description of a specific web site Donors and a weak case for forc ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dianne Oliver
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Here are the five principles in the book:
1. Buy Experiences
2. Make it a Treat
3. Buy Time
4. Pay Now, Consume Later
5. Invest in Others

All fine and dandy- tho a bit of common sense makes it unnecessary to read. Still, good to keep in mind. But then, out of the blue they go into how the government needs to do happiness studies, monitoring the things that make its citizens the happiest, etc. (tip:don't waste our money) and how we need better wealth distribution. ugh. Their diatribe discredited them,
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
How to spend money to buy happiness:
1. Buy experiences
2. Make it a treat
3. Buy time
4. Pay now, consume later
5. Invest in others
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm just going to review the big picture of this book for the sake of me trying to retain the ideas.

It's one of these researcher-written self-help books, this time explain the limited ways in which money CAN buy happiness.

5 big ways it can:

Buy experiences: this one is pretty well known now and millennials seem to be famous for doing this now. A new BMW seems like it'll make you happy but it doesn't in the long term. But a Spartan Race will even if it's painful in the short term.

Make it a Treat:
Ed Terrell
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Happy Money provides and insightful journey into the world of behavioral psychologists and the essence of happiness. It is the way of the Buddha. The life of Mother Theresa. One of the most valuable chapters is “Buy Experiences”. It shows that in the long run experiences over stuff is far more important. We need to ask ourselves: "How will this purchase change the way I use my time?” It is not an easy path and one that we are internally programmed to thwart. Of course, the media does it's part b ...more
Aaron Dutton
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: at-bpl
Provides some insight into the psychological reasons we behave the way we do with money and gives some steps on maximizing your happiness.

A very quick read, which I almost bypassed when I read some of the reviews summarizing the book. I don’t know that I gained a lot by the read over the summary except for one thing, which I outline below.

I realized that the peace and contentment that I get from making a monthly budget come from the same mental space as the “pay now, consume later” (p80-103) p
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Love the basis of the book; rather than focus on ways to get more money, try altering how you spend what money you already have to maximise happiness. The five main pointers are well explained, well researched and simple to apply in your every day life. They make a lot of sense, and the first one especially-buy experiences- really resounded with me, because at the end of the day it is experiences that make us and experiences that we will look back on over our lifetime as "money well spent". Plus ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Happy Money is an interesting read into how our spending habits can make us happy -- or not!

The book uses studies to explore how what we earn may not be as important to our well-being as where we work, and what we own may not be as important to our happiness as what we experience when spending money.

Some of the suggestions in the book may seem like common-sense but can be surprising when applied to how we view building wealth and spending money. I, for one, found that the suggestions helped me t
Roy Wang
Many other Goodreads reviewers have already given great summaries of the book's 5 key ideas, so I won't repeat them there. One thing the book inspired me to ponder is the fact that how we spend money impacts how we spend or utilize other "resources," including time, energy, health, relationships, etc. If we're spending too much of anything on one specific thing, our other things will invariably suffer, which rarely brings long-term happiness. There's no one single best way to allocate all the ki ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick read with interesting information about ways to maximize happiness through spending habits. The final chapter, which the authors admittedly call a "thought experiment," is a bit of a stretch, discussing how governments can encourage individuals to spend money in ways designed to maximize their happiness. Otherwise, the study results discussed throughout the first five chapters provide a solid foundation for reassessing one's own budget.
Tadas Antanavicius
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Enjoyable, insightful read. Well-researched, so it feels like it has a lot of credible weight behind it. I found the individual-level insights compelling, and the macro-level ones less so. The humor is welcome, albeit a bit quirky. I intend to try applying some of the ideas in my personal life.

That said, I do think it's a little drawn out; could definitely communicate the five highlights in a more concise long essay.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Useful Tool

A good read to help understand the factors to take into consideration about what truly makes one (can make one happy) about having money. It's not just the act of pulling out the cash, swiping the card, carrying the goods home. This book is a much appreciated thought-provoker for more intentional living, and of course, spending.
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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
“Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” This” 0 likes
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