Happiness is the Root of Money

This is going to sound a little odd, but I’m beginning to feel like “me” again.

One thing I did a tonne of growing up that fell by the wayside as I got older, was reading. My penchant for novels and other books has in recent years over the years deteriorated into magazine clips and internet articles. University certainly didn’t help with that, but 4 years out I really can’t blame it anymore either.

So, I’ve started reading again. It’s obviously competing for time with reading blogs and other forms of media, but books have been added back into the loop again. This weekend I started the first couple chapters of The Happiness Project.

Given that I’m only a couple chapters in, any of you who have read it will know that I’m nowhere near the money chapter yet. That didn’t stop me from thinking about how my own happiness has been affected by money, and vice versa.

Geez, it’s like I’m obsessed with money.

The Happiness Project is, from what I’ve seen so far, a book of anecdotal stories about a woman who makes little changes to her life to attempt to find a higher appreciation for what she has. Basically, she’s trying to be happier with the things she has; a good husband, healthy kids, a nice home, a stable job, plentiful friends, you name it.

I’m sure many of you reading this have had some experience with debt. For that matter, many of you have experienced the stress that can accompany debt. It’s exhausting. Your focus turns away from all of the good in your life, and you fixate on the dark, pressing, looming cloud of owing. It’s oppressive. Instead of paying attention to the little things like the smell of a good cup of coffee, a stranger who smiled and held the door open for you, or new flower buds peaking out of a garden bed, your focus is on figuring out how you’re going to pay your bills. Or worse, you’re still trying to figure out how to plug the money hole without having to change anything.

Definition of insanity people.

Rather than looking at my time in debt and focussing on how unhappy it made me, reading The Happiness Project is making me look at my debt differently. Namely, if I was happy, would I have gone into debt?

I’ve spent a good 3 or 4 days thinking about that, and the answer in my case is yes. Even if I was really and truly happy, I would have still had a car loan. I purchased my car after university in order to get to work at a job that was in a different part of town, and barely serviced by bus. For the first year out of school I probably would have had some student debt as well, though not as much.

The credit card debt and line of credit debt however would not have existed. I wouldn’t have been trying to sooth emotional voids with spending, which I know I did in droves. I wouldn’t have raced into buying a home to get away from a roommate who drove me up the wall, and consequently wouldn’t have run up my line of credit with renovation costs. I wouldn’t have felt the need to prove anything to myself, or anyone else, with aspirational spending. I would have been content with a cup of tea from home rather than going out and buying one whenever I was stressed. My skin would have flared up less (not altogether, less) and I would have spent less money seeking treatments. I would have been happy to host get togethers at home rather than constantly going out.

But I didn’t. I think my level of happiness had something to do with that.

I’m in a fairly fortunate position right now. My family is healthy. I’m in a job I enjoy that pays me well. I’m in a happy relationship. My house payments are manageable. I have a close circle of friends. My savings rate is no longer negative. I have ¬†food in my fridge and clothes on my back. I’m in position of being able to not only look after my needs, but some of my wants as well. As much as I may gripe about the state of my lawn and how bank fees piss me off, I’ve got it pretty good.

I wonder if my happiness level increased because my debt level went down, or if my debt level went down because I relearned how to be happy with the things I had? I don’t know. I do know that I’ll probably spend the rest of my life finding out the answer to that through my own unintentional happiness experiments.

How does your happiness level affect your relationship with money?

Recommended Reading: Having a Back-up Plan

6 responses to “Happiness is the Root of Money

  1. I think it’s both. Your debt went down because you are more content with what you have and since you’re debt burden has lessened, you are even happier? I have a strange relationship with debt. I have more debt than most people do, but I’m never stressed over it. I actually don’t mind debt. Couldn’t have bought my own home or went to college without going into debt. People are scared of the unknown. Maybe part of the reason money and debt make “some” people nervous is because they don’t really understand it, and what implications it will have on their lives in the future.

  2. I think I’m in love with this post. Seriously, I identified with so much of what you said here. While I do think I’m someone who already takes in the smell of a good cup of coffee, smiles at strangers, etc. I have also had periods of insanity. I can’t say I would’ve spent every penny of my debt, if I had been truly happy, but I don’t regret anything. I still have everything I spent my “money” on and appreciate the things I bought that still hold value (furniture, car, etc.). I still have $10,000+ of debt but I’m happy. Great post, Cassie!

  3. I agree with Cait, I love this post and how you approached the question you are asking yourself/us. The funny thing for me has been my relationship with money is so much more stable now. Before, I would walk into a store and it was like emergency sirens were going off in my head “BUY! BUY! BUY!” and then I would be immediately upset that I couldn’t afford a $1,000 purse, $200 shoes and overpriced cosmetics. So I would buy some of the cosmetics to console myself and leave with a pair of patent leather heels tugging at my heart. It was crazy. Over the past year and a half, all of that changed. I buy what I can afford and I stay focused on the goal. Not only that, I see how unhappy the people around me who are in debt and continue to spend are. I see that they are constantly talking about money, but not in a productive way. It’s talking about what someone else spends, how much someone else makes, what’s the best way to make a quick buck. Sometimes they will ask me about my blog and how my debt repayment is going and I will apologize because I think I am talking too much about money and don’t want to bore them. But then I realize that we all talk about money, it’s just the “how” that’s different. Too many of us women spend too much time in aspirational spending la-la land, and not enough time figuring out that we can have what we want, we don’t need anyone else to pay our way and if we just focus a little and get our sh*t together, we’d be golden!

  4. I love that book SO much. I mean, yes, she kind of gets on my nerves sometimes because she and her husband ARE wealthy. And a lot of the things she does do in her Happiness Project involve the spending of money. But the main values in it are SO good.

  5. Pingback: Best Personal Finance Writing - Week 24 - Married (with Debt)

  6. Pingback: It’s Been A Long Haul – Looking Back | Tales from the Trenches

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