Can Money Buy You Happiness?

By Ashley Manning | Tuesday 15th August, 2017

Back in 1992, Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross released the track ‘The Best Things in Life Are Free’, and everyone lost their shit. It offered hope that you didn’t need to flash the cash to be happy, love ruled the world and leotards were here to stay.

But since then, opinions have remained divided. Madonna sung of happiness as a material girl whereas Kanya threw shade on gold diggers; Biggie Smalls sung of having mo’ money mo’ problems but then the Wu-Tang Clan reckon Cash. Rules. Everything.

It’s the common claim that if we just had a little bit more money we’d be so much happier leading to chronic dissatisfaction. We spend most of our time filling virtual shopping bags we'll never have the money to pay for, planning nights out we’ll probably have to cancel on and fantasising about that holiday we went on, that time we could afford it, two years ago.


25 years on since Ms Jackson belted out her track, science has got involved claiming that actually, Janet, money can buy you happiness. But how?

Money can buy you time

When I was younger, my grandmother always used to say that the most expensive and valuable thing you own is your time. And at the age of 10, I’d burst out laughing whilst clutching onto my Nintendo Game Boy which was clearly the most valuable thing I owned. But now, research from PNAS suggests that we’re happier when we buy ourselves time (which, before you ask, has no dependence on your disposable income). This means you shouldn’t feel lazy for paying for a cleaner to come in and clean your house and you shouldn’t feel bad for paying your younger brother a fiver to clean your car (work experience, isn’t it?). When we delegate jobs we free up our time to both do the things we really enjoy and really need to get done. It also gives us the space to do absolutely nothing, which, if we are all honest, makes us at least a bit happy.

Money can buy experiences

It’s not really all about having new clothes/ phones/ cars/ shoes etc; apparently using your money to ‘buy an experience’ is much more fulfilling. A festival might cost you £200 but you gain five days of memories. A holiday might break your bank but you get a free tan and a lot of stories you’ll never be able to tell your mum and dad. It goes without saying that if you have every gadget going, every pair of adidas trainers and a BMW but you don’t actively do anything in life, you probably won’t be very happy. And come on, that new jacket isn’t going to offer to buy the next round.


Money can be spent on others

A study conducted by Zurich University, which measured brain activity, suggested that we are all much happier when we spend money on other people. It also claimed that regularly giving gifts can have a sustained impact on your happiness. This doesn’t mean that you should or must hand over your money to other people, but if you have some spare, buy your mate a coffee or give your change to the homeless. You know, pay it forward.

I guess then, apparently, money can buy you happiness. But a much more rewarding, sustainable happiness than diamond earrings and a MacBook Pro can give you (no offence to Apple).

“Okay but I’m shit with money so how can I buy time, experiences and flat whites for my mate Billy?”

So, if potentially money can buy you happiness, it could be a wise idea to get better with it. If you download Loot here, you can create daily and weekly budgets which will help you to live within your means and you might even have some cash left over. And when you do, you can put it aside in a #LootGoal so you can afford to go on another holiday rather than annoying everyone by retelling the same stories from that holiday two years ago.