Yesterday, I asked the question “What does our need to be happy contribute [to our monetary decisions], and why do we ever think that spending money equates to happiness?” I’ve been thinking about this perceived connection between money and happiness during the SNAP Challenge. Is there really something to the idea that being able to swipe a card and “magically” take something home can provide a feeling of happiness and contentment?
I know a woman who feels a strong connection between spending money and personal happiness. She loves to shop. “Betty” (not her real name) enjoys buying things. Her closet holds so many clothes that the bar once fell down from the weight of them. I would guess she has well over $12,000 worth of clothes and shoes in her house. Add jewelry and the total will far surpass $20,000. She has more doo-dads and knick-knacks than she can fit into her three bedroom rental house. She and her husband Larry rent a storage unit that costs $85 a month to store their excess stuff. Betty enjoys regular manicures and pedicures. She likes to eat out at expensive restaurants, enjoys multiple adult beverages each day, and expects to take at least one expensive vacation each year. She equates shopping with personal happiness and crows with delight over everything from designer shoes to Persian rugs.
Does spending money and buying stuff really make Betty happy? Well, maybe there’s a quick rush of pleasure until she gets her purchase home from the mall or receives what she has ordered in the mail. The “new” wears off quickly, and Betty once again seeks something else to make herself feel better. Betty’s spending habits have put the couple into Chapter 13 bankruptcy twice during their marriage, contributed to the loss of their condominium, and recently to the need to consolidate their debts. Yet, still she spends; still she tries to fill the hole in her heart by spending money she and Larry really don’t have to spend and by purchasing needless stuff that will quickly find a place in some closet, the storage unit, or the trash can.
Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project has this to say about the money and happiness: “I think that the relationship between money and happiness is one of the most interesting, most complicated, and most sensitive questions in the study of happiness. Studies show, unsurprisingly, that money’s impact on happiness is greatest when you have the least amount of money.”
Rubin goes on to say “The hedonic treadmill means that buying STUFF isn’t very satisfying, but there are ways to spend money that are likely to help give you enduring happiness.” I agree with her on that point; if you use money to support community and relationships–say to buy toys or books for your congregation’s Parents’ Day Out Program, or to buy a couple of tennis racquets so that you and your partner can use the tennis court at your apartment complex and spend quality time together while getting some great exercise. What about buying double canned goods and donating the extra to your local food pantry or hunger program. When you’re enjoying your all natural peanut butter and local honey sandwich, you’ll know someone else is eating healthy peanut butter and local honey, too. There are all sorts of ways to use money as a tool to enhance relationships, improve the quality of others’ lives, and do a world of good. When we keep the focus outward, keep our hands open, and remember that the glass is always better half full than half empty, whatever amount of money we do or don’t have is more likely to be enough.
Yes, that’s what this has to do with the SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge. Even on a SNAP budget, we still have an abundance of blessings. Since one in eight Americans is steaming along with the help of SNAP through some pretty stormy economic seas, we ought to be able to have some pretty fine pot lucks and fellowship. Did you see the movie Titanic? Remember how much fun the passengers in steerage were having with music and dancing and how stuffy life was in the first class dining room? No, swiping a credit card or an EBT card won’t ensure happiness, but rightly used whatever amount of money one has can contribute to the things that matter and help us all more fully enjoy the people and experiences that are priceless. Maybe Betty will figure out what really makes for happiness before it’s too late. I surely hope so!
How do you define happiness? Please share your thoughts on the subject.
State of the Pantry
No purchases today! Breakfast was coffee and a granola bar. Lunch was beans and rice. Supper was the last of the roast beef, potatoes, and gravy. We also enjoyed watermelon, grapes, and an apple and cheese stick for snack.