We've all heard the saying money can't buy happiness, and while there may be some truth to it, you can certainly improve your wellbeing by making sure your spending is going towards your happiness. You can't buy a jar of joy in a shop, but if you look after your personal finances, they will look after you.
Budgeting isn't always about spending less money, sometimes it's just about making sure you are spending money on the right things. Consider this for every pound you spend: is this purchase going to bring me happiness?
1. Buy Experiences, Not Items
Despite what adverts would have you believe, buying things rarely makes you happy for very long. Experiences and events create better memories, that do more to bring long-term happiness than an item purchased. Take a serious look at what you are saving money towards. If it is a physical object, do you really need it?
Concerts, festivals, day trips, weekend breaks, nights out, eating out, exhibitions and performances of all kinds may seem like temporary, fleeting experiences that are over quickly. However, the memories of these events can be of more value to you in terms of long term happiness, than an item that you must now keep forever in your home.
2. Spend it on Someone Else
The idiom Money can't buy happiness is really a warning that having more money, or spending money on yourself, doesn't necessarily have the pleasurable pay-off you expect. However, humans are naturally compassionate creatures, and helping out those we love and care about, or those less fortunate who need the help, can be hugely rewarding and fulfilling.
Think about who in your life could do with some investment, maybe some equipment to help with their business, their art or craft. Maybe it's a gift for someone who has brought happiness to your life already. It doesn't have to be a birthday or Christmas time for you to show people you care about them, and there's a good chance you'll get more of a thrill out of helping someone else than just helping yourself.
3. Treat Yo' Self
If there's something you particularly enjoy, you may end up spending a lot on it. It might be a freshly brewed coffee, or your favourite chocolate snack. It might be trips to the cinema, or a large glass of wine. Whatever it is, you probably already know you are spending too much on it.
Instead of splashing out whenever you get the notion, make it a special treat. Decide you are only going to treat yourself once or twice a week, at a specific time, and clear space in your schedule to enjoy it fully. Having a specific time set aside where you can partake in your pleasure without feeling guilty will allow you to really savour it fully.
Using Money Dashboard as your financial coach can help you establish exactly where you are spending your money and create a budget that works for you. This way can enjoy your special treats guilt-free and with confidence that it won't cause you to be short of cash at the end of the month.
4. Buy Some Free Time
What tasks do you really hate doing? Often cleaning, or administrative tasks like bill paying end up on this list. It could be laundry. It might be that you can pay someone else to perform these tasks for you. Using websites like Streetlife and other local area social networks and message boards, you should be able to find a housekeeper with recommendations from a neighbour.
Local dry cleaners may also do laundry and ironing services. Dropping off and picking up your clothes is much quicker and more pleasant than doing the whole activity yourself, and will save you time to focus on what makes you happy. Accountants can be expensive, but maybe you know someone good with numbers who would be happy to earn some extra cash by sorting out your bills or tax return for you.
5. Invest in Your Future
It's cheaper to bring happiness to yourself in the future than it is in the present. Instead of looking at things you can buy today, think about a bigger purchase you can save up for. Having this kind of financial goal is a good incentive to work hard and save up. Maybe print out a picture of it for your wall, to motivate you. Put some money away today, and aim to keep doing that regularly until you can afford what you want.
Alternatively, book a holiday far in advance. You will likely find that flights and hotels are much cheaper when you book them with lots of notice. Anticipation of a future payoff is something enjoyable in itself. You get to daydream about something you know you will acquire in the future instead of splashing out today then feeling guilty for spending more than you could afford.