One of the greatest feelings in the world is when you see money flowing into your bank account after your hard work pays off. That feel-happy, positive psychology emotion peaks as you’re now able to go spend money that will make you a happier person. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work, right?
Before you spend your money on fun trips, clothes, sneakers, phones and more – you have to pay bills. You have to pay for your house, water, electricity, food and more. Then you have to choose if you’re saving any, investing it, or making a purchase. What do you do with the excess?
Maybe money can’t buy happiness directly, but it can help make your life much simpler and less broke. It can help make your overall well being, and sense of self worth a bit better. But remember, your self worth is not your net worth.
Continue reading to see why money doesn’t buy happiness.
What Does Money Can’t Buy Happiness Mean?
The saying “money can’t buy happiness” has its origins in 1750 in a proverb written by Rousseau. The proverb goes like this: “Money buys everything, except for morality and citizens.” This basically means that if you are to be pure and whole, then you shouldn’t expect money to fill that hole.
It’s taken different forms over the years, but the basic principle remains the same. Money is not going to lead to your happiness for a variety of reasons. That’s not to say that it won’t help you in many spots, though.
Nonetheless, everything you gain with monetary value cannot be purchased by the soul. Your family, friends, and everyone else important to you will not be true if it’s because of money.
So, why doesn’t much money buy happiness? Here’s why…
Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness (9 Reasons)
Finding what can bring you happiness is important. Trying to become happier is good, especially if you’re depressed or lacking compassion. The idea that money won’t buy happiness really stems from possessions and their value in the present moment. Being around happy people will usually make you happier, unless of course, you hate people.
Learning to attain happiness is a personal journey, and no wrong paths can be taken. It’s important to know that everyone will be finding happiness in their own unique way. Showing gratitude and increasing mindfulness to others can bring your level of happiness up too. Having positive emotions and showing kindness to others allows you to let go of negativity that you may have as well.
Removing yourself from unhappy people, focusing on your own moods, finding joy in the things you have, and understanding what makes you happier are all ways to help you find fulfillment. Work to increase your own level of positivity. And remember, what makes other people happy may not make you happy so don’t get caught up on what someone else says.
1. The More You Own, the More You Clean
No one likes having to clean up stuff. It’s so time-consuming, and you’ll always strive to remove every grain of hair if you can find one and are a perfectionist. Homes can be big, and if you own a really large-sized home, then you will spend hours cleaning. Your whole Saturday, poof, gone. Of course, you could try spending-money to be happier and not spend so much time cleaning, but that may require some optimism.
The more stuff you have, the more things that need to be cleaned. So when you are thinking about purchasing that brand new side table, remember that it’s another thing you have to clean. One thing extra is not bad, but multiple pieces of furniture will be intense.
2. Less Time to Enjoy What You Have
If you have tons of books, video games, Blu-Rays/DVDs, or anything else in an abundance of net worth, you will probably struggle to pick out exactly what you want to enjoy. There are so many options that you can’t choose. This is an actual, legitimate human phenomenon, too: the more options that someone has to choose from, the less likely they will be to use any of those options.
Having more things in the house can lead to less time actually using those things and more time working on them. It’ll almost feel like wasted money, which is not what you will want to feel. More cars mean more cleaning, too. You need to find a balance, and while more things can be great, the downsides need to be understood.
Check out our article on living stingy so you can weigh the pros and cons.
3. The More You Have to Pay In Maintenance
Similarly to cleaning more stuff, when things break down, you will need to pay more money on top of the money you’ve already spent on the “thing” to fix the thing. With homes, especially bigger ones, there will be more to deal with and pay attention too. Going from an apartment to a large house can add multiple bathrooms that can overflow, multiple light fixtures that could burst, and more. All of these things in the large square footage of your house will need to be understood.
This also takes away your free time, again. It’s great to have a great home, but great homes do not mean big homes. They sometimes do, but not always! In order to live a happy life, sometimes you just need to find better ways to be happy. Devalue physical possessions and truly value things that only bring happiness into your life.
4. Material Things Only Provide Temporary Happiness
When you purchase a new gaming system, a new picture, or anything else, you are purchasing something that has an expiration date. It actually has multiple expiration dates, from its actual breakage date, to your selling date, to the time your happiness with it falls down. All of these feelings are temporary, and although pressing “buy now” might feel good right when you do it, that’s only for a short amount of time.
In fact, if you want to make the argument that money full-out does buy happiness, then we’d agree with you if you were saying that you should spend your money on experiences that have long-lasting memories to go along with it. In that case, money does provide happiness, but a material item won’t make you feel that way forever like an experience will.
5. You’ll Always Want More
To be honest, when we purchase anything in life, we get a bit of a high and want to purchase more things. There’s always that feeling of wanting more, and the next best thing is just right around the corner. When people say that they wish they had more money, that’s another indicator that they just want more than what they have of something.
It’s great to have more money, but it’s not what is going to lead to happiness if you are only going to plan to continually purchase things with it. Fancier cars and newer clothes are only fancy and new until you have the next urge to purchase something fancier and newer.
6. You Won’t Make True Friends or Have a Happy Family With Money
In life, the things that should really make you happy is having a good relationship with family members and a strong friendship with your closest confidants. These people, your loved ones, are the people that will make you feel as special as could be, and they will bring you true happiness. Being truly happy is quite truly something else.
What you cannot gain with money is a friend or close family member. That’s not to say you will have fewer people reach out to you, however, because you typically get more “friends” coming out of the woods when you have more money or your social status improves.
A lot of people will tend to feel more isolated when they make much more money. They’ll never be able to know whether new relationships are based on the foundation of their life together or the foundations of their wallets. It can be a sad place to be on top of the world.
7. You Won’t Fall in Love with Money
If money bought everything, then why are the richest people in the world also known as the unhappiest people in the world? They’d know how to be happy all the time because they have crazy lavish lives.
Higher salary, more disposable income, and different types of new cars won’t keep you from experiencing health issues, personal finance difficulties at times, and more than that, buying things just won’t keep you from expiring. Research shows that money won’t make your problems go away.
At the end of the day, when you fight to make tons of money in your industry, the higher up the ladder you climb, the more difficult and tiring the politics become. Actors who are on top of the world typically had to go through some horribly-long hours to get where they want to be, and they are constantly in the public spotlight.
Even non-famous wealthy people, such as your typical CEO of a medium-sized business, have long hours, and have to deal with managing tons of people to make ends meet. It’s not as glamorous as can be, and unless you win the lottery, it’s not always perfect for your mental health issues. Even lottery winners have been known to have public downfalls and lose all their money right away. Just like saving every penny and a saving-money focus on life, thinking that money directly determines happiness is a falsity. Buying material things nor saving them doesn’t mean much mentally.
Not only those things, but you will not know if any future relationships will be complete because of your character or because of what material things and experiences you can provide. The level of insecurity you will feel might grow until you can’t take it anymore, and no one wants to see you go through that.
Money is a powerful tool, but you will not and should not fall in love with it.
8. Buying Stuff Won’t Make us Feel Better Mentally
When you are getting over a break-up, you might purchase some ice cream and enjoy your favorite movies with friends. That will give you temporary satisfaction, and it might help you cope, but you won’t feel better mentally with that ice cream.
Suffering from the hedonic treadmill could mean that your pursuit of happiness will be miserable and lead you to be unhappy. Your ability to find happiness will come up short. You’ll lack the ability to find contentment with your life.
If you are purchasing something based on the presumption that it will make you feel better, then you will be sorely mistaken after that initial purchasing high. However, experiences will make you feel better. Buying a ticket to a sporting event or concert will give you a new experience, a chance to make new friends, and opportunities to talk with family you haven’t talked with in a long time.
9. Happiness Comes From Doing Things We Love
We’re taking it full circle with the quote at the beginning of the article. That proverb that focuses on what money cannot buy – morality and people – rings true. Happiness comes from doing things we love, like playing our favorite sports to combatting your family members in a rambunctious game of Monopoly.
Your heart will only become full once you understand that relationships are where true happiness comes from. If you were trapped in your home by yourself with no contact with the outside world, you’d struggle, because humans are social creatures. It’s high we have always been wired, and money is not something we can have a relationship with.
Arguably, Money Can Contribute To Quality of Life
At the end of the day, money will still contribute somewhat to a happier you. While we are saying that money is not everything, and it truly is not, you have to realize that the world is full of things money cannot buy. And you probably do realize this!
Relationships with friends and family, doing what makes you feel fulfilled, and feeling proud of your self-worth is where true happiness comes from. And while money will help you achieve those things, whether it’s through going out more often with friends and family or purchasing gym equipment or memberships, it’s not everything.
Being happy does not revolve around money.
What other “money” sayings do you love? Tell us in the comments!
Samantha uses her BS in Finance and MBA to help others control their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, side hustles, and travel hacking. Due to following the FIRE Movement’s principles, she was able to quit her high-stress job in the financial services industry in July 2019 to pursue her side hustles. She is now a full-time entrepreneur, freelancing coach, and blogger.