More money does not always bring more happiness. We know that. So how do you get more happiness from the money you do have?
1. Pay now, enjoy later
In 1949, Frank McNamara enjoyed a pleasant evening at a New York City restaurant. He asked for the bill but to his horror discovered he didn't have any cash. Although his wife stepped in to pay, McNamara soon created the Diners Club card ensuring he'd never have to experience that feeling again. This would soon morph into American Express, MasterCard and a huge credit card industry.
Since then, the idea of enjoy now, pay later is standard marketing practice. Many big brands offer finance for purchases. However, you'll get more happiness for doing the opposite: Pay now, enjoy later.
Enjoy later may sound counter-intuitive to gaining more happiness, but as Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton revealed in Happy Money, neurological research shows thoughts of the future are stronger than memories of the past. Plan to reward yourself with a treat and you'll enjoy the idea of it more than you will the memory.
So pay now and enjoy later. Anticipate, excitedly, the idea of it.
2. Spend on others
Spending money on others may "lower risk of depression and suicide", studies show.
'Prosocial behaviour', or spending money on others, has been found to give greater meaning in life, self-worth and self-esteem.
The study from University of Chicago, reported in The Journal of Positive Psychology, has found when participants spent money on others through donations, gifts and volunteering, they felt more positive emotion than when spending on themselves.
Nadav Klien, the researcher, wrote, "believing that one's life is meaningful is associated with a number of important markers of psychological health, including lower risk of depression and suicide".
Participants were given $5 each and told to spend it on whatever they wanted: Themselves or others. They could use it pay their bills, transport, food, gifts, donations or whatever they pleased. At the end of the day, they were surveyed on what they spent the money on and how it made them feel. Those that spent the money on others answered their action "was associated with a greater sense of purpose and meaning".
3. Make it a special treat
Frugal bloggers love to use the example of cutting Starbucks from your daily habit to save money. However, they miss the point that when you first start having Starbucks, you enjoy it. The ratio of happiness to cost is high. Yet, after drinking it a thousand times you may not enjoy it so much. When asked you may say you do, but as you chug it down on the way to work, are you really savouring each sip as if it were your first?
Research suggests that altering your patterns of consumption can boost happiness more than simply cutting down. Make Starbucks (or whatever your vice is) a special treat. Consume a standard variation the rest of the week, and surprise yourself by upgrading as a reward. Many diets follow the idea of "Cheat Day", the same principles apply.
4. Stop viewing time as money
People who are paid by the hour, such as baristas and lawyers, are less likely to participate in volunteer work. They're more likely to work longer for more money, and when told to think about their hourly wage are then less able to enjoy activities such as listening to music.
Stop viewing time as money. Rather than saying "I could be making £30 right now", say "my free time is priceless". If you have an hourly job, calculate your average monthly income and stick to that when thinking of it. Working that extra hour will get you more money, but the enjoyment you gain from it will be less.
5. Treat your partner as a stranger
If you're in a relationship you may wonder how to make things exciting. How to get that spark back, or the honeymoon phase experienced in the first few months. Many couples will purchase nice dinners or gifts, but a simpler trick may be to treat your partner as a complete stranger.
Dunn and Norton's psychological research reveals, 'People derived significantly more joy from interacting with their romantic partners when they treated the loves of their lives as though they were complete strangers'.
Put your best foot forward as if you would to any new person. Imagine it was your first date once again and enjoy the feeling once more.
Tom Church is co-founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, a community of bargain hunters focused on enjoying life with less money.Suggest a correction