On Money and It’s Ability to Buy Happiness

Money can’t buy happiness. Or, as some like to say, it can’t buy happiness but it can buy wine/pizza/dogs/etc and that’s the same thing! Anyway you go about it, I have a bone to pick with the saying that money can’t buy happiness. I hate capitalism as much as the next cynical millennial, but I think it’s a way too simple way to look at the way money exists in our world.  For most people, they’re not trying to buy happiness, they’re trying to buy peace of mind.

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*cringes*

We live in a society that money is how you get anything and everything. With enough, you can get cars and houses and property and everything you could ever dream of. But, it’s also money that gets you food and shelter and clothing. For many places its how you get your healthcare or pharmaceuticals. Our entire economy is money based, and the exchange of money for goods and services. It is a rarity and definite outlier if someone directly exchanges work or goods for other work or goods. It’s all about earning money for those things.

However, there is a narrative around money that it is something that is only for extra things. One place I see this all the time is on YouTube or Twitch. If a content creator adds ads or sponsored content, they are seen as sell-outs. “You’re just trying to make money,” and “gotta get that YouTube money, huh” is a common insult to people just trying to make money for themselves. This obviously overlaps with a different bias relating to entertainers earning money and the idea of a starving artist, but it also applies here.

Basically I’m referring to the fact that most of the time, when we talk about money, we are talking about spending on luxuries. I think it’s because it makes people uncomfortable to remember that we couldn’t survive if we didn’t have money. It’s a lot easier to imagine people spending their money on iPhones and video games than food for their families or medicine for their preexisting condition. But that’s the reality of how money is made. Which is why the whole idea of telling someone that money doesn’t buy happiness, so they shouldn’t pursue money is a really stupid thing to say.

I’m not here to argue that buying cool stuff is going to bring you happiness, and will provide you the same satisfaction as real relationships and genuine experiences. That’s not my issue with this quote. At the end of the day, the concept that money doesn’t buy happiness is true. It’s not going to magically solve your depression or fix your marriage. I’m also not here to say that people without money are inherently less happy or live miserable lives. You can be poverty stricken and still love your family and have hobbies you truly enjoy. I realize that money is not the solution to everything.

But it brings security. And security brings the ability to focus on other issues than just trying to survive. Some studies, such as this one, show that money does increase emotional well-being, although only to a certain point of income. Having money allows us to avoid the certain pitfalls that bring sadness or anger to our lives. Making rent, buying groceries, and buying clothes are activities that are considered chores by almost anyone, but being able to do them without stress has a huge influence over our general happiness.

Now most people can concede this. The understand that money makes life more convenient or easier. But I’m not just talking about simple convenience. I’m not talking about the difference between flying coach or flying business. I’m not even talking about the difference between being able to fly and not being able to. I’m talking about the difference between putting the food on the table and starving for another day. I’m talking about being able to heat your home and freezing because you can afford the electricity bill. I’m talking about being able to afford cold medicine for your child and having to watch them cough and sneeze. I’m talking about real issues that face people who live in poverty.

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This ≠ my point.

The point I’m trying to make here is just to try to show a bit more empathy to people trying to make a buck. We’re all out here trying to survive, trying to earn a living. And if we’re ever going to reach a point of true compassion for each other, we need to stop talking about money as this extravagant thing. We need to stop assuming that everyone makes enough to survive on, and anything extra is automatically bonus. We need to stop condemning poor people for their choices with their money when they’re just trying to live their best life.

Thanks for reading my opinions on this. Please let me know what you think in the comments, I would love to hear other opinions on this.  Until next time, later days!

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