Spending This Way Can Make You Happier


It’s a basic human ambition: To be happy. To live an engaged and prosperous life. But figuring out how to do it is another story. Granted some people are naturals at it. For the rest of us, it takes more effort.

When you break it down, it’s usually about doing one thing: Getting purposeful with everything you do. Where you’ve figured out what you want and get intentional about spending your time, energy and money to make it happen.

But often we get caught up in busy-ness and spend those three valuable resources on whatever comes up in the moment.

At the same time, simply carving out even a small amount of time to plan your spending can make a huge difference in your level of well-being. It creates a shift from winging it with your money to using it as a tool for creating the life you want.

Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you have $250 a week to spend after your necessities and bills are paid. You can spend it on stuff like eating out all week, clothes or gadget shopping, having drinks with friends—in-the-moment fun. Or you can use it toward activities that make you happier in the long-term and bring you a greater sense of life satisfaction. (This is what good financial coaches and planners aim to do when working with clients).

One way to do this is through what’s called the PERMA model, developed by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, and detailed in his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness & Well-Being. According to Seligman and other researchers, bringing these five key elements into your life can help you go from “functioning to flourishing.”

PERMA stands for:

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

They all sound like good things to have in your life, right? But how can you bring them into the picture, say, tomorrow?

It comes down to becoming more aware of what you (personally) need to do to have a good life. And in this case, how your spending can help you do that.

If you think about what you’re spending on, and whether it’s for in-the-moment stuff or for long-term thriving—where you feel you’re creating prosperity for the long- term, you’re halfway there. Then you can be more intentional about earmarking some cash for each of these areas that help you achieve that. Let’s take them one by one.

  1. Positive emotions: Engaging in activities that make you feel, for example, connection, joy, awe, contentment, excitement, enthusiasm, love, hope, inspiration, peace, joy, comfort and genuinely uplifted. How you can apply it: Allocating money toward the things that make you feel genuinely happy, and spending less on things that don’t.
  1. Engagement: Pursuing activities where your attention is so focused, and you’re so immersed that you lose your sense of self and time seems to stand still. Maybe you’ve heard it called “flow” or the “zone.” It usually happens when you’re doing something you deeply enjoy or when you’re using your mind, skills and talents on something challenging. For example, reading, listening to music, solving something, dancing, creating, exploring, pushing your limits, spending time in nature, working out. How you can apply it: Allocating money for those activities you lose all sense of time doing.
  1. (Positive) Relationships: Being around people who enrich your life and make you feel supported, uplifted, loved, connected. We’re social beings and study after study shows when we have strong relationships, we’re happier and healthier. How you can apply it: Allocating money toward nurturing your relationships and spending time with people you care about, laugh with, feel supported by.
  1. Meaning: Being part of or contributing to something that’s greater than yourself. For example, contributing through work or volunteering in ways that make a positive impact  or give you a sense a purpose. How you can apply it: Using your work, skills, time and/or money to help others improve their lives, or contributing to causes you care about.
  1. Accomplishment: When we’re learning or striving to achieve competency, success or mastery in some area (and especially when we push beyond our comfort zone), we’re growing and it makes us feel good. How you can apply it: Allocating money toward learning, taking classes, mastering skills or succeeding in an area that’s important to you or your work. And celebrating your accomplishments.

There are so many ways to bring these elements into your life. But it’s best to start simply.  The most important thing is to get purposeful about it. Because once you do, you’ll be spending in a way that supports your biggest goals and  the things that matter most to you. 

Question: If any of these elements are missing for you, how could you bring them in? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful, please Like, Tweet and Share, as it can help inspire others. Thank you for reading!

Photo: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.com

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