Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn
  • Title: Happy Money
  • Subtitle: The Science of Happier Spending
  • Author(s): Elizabeth Dunn, Michael Norton
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster
  • Year: 2014-05-20
  • ISBN-10: 1451665075
  • ISBN-13: 9781451665079


In “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn, readers are introduced to the concept that money can indeed buy happiness, but only if we know how to spend it wisely. Dunn, a renowned social psychologist, explores the relationship between money and happiness through various scientific studies and real-life examples. She reveals that material possessions, which we often believe will bring us joy, actually provide only short-term happiness. Instead, Dunn emphasizes the importance of experiential purchases, investing in others, and prioritizing values alignment when it comes to spending money to maximize the happiness we derive from it.

Throughout the book, Dunn provides practical advice on how to make smarter choices with our money to lead happier lives. She discusses the benefits of planning for future experiences instead of material possessions, stressing the lasting positive impact of memories over the temporary excitement of acquiring things. Additionally, Dunn explores the notion of investing in others and highlights the satisfaction derived from giving – whether it’s through charitable contributions or spending money on thoughtful gifts for loved ones. By incorporating scientific findings and personal anecdotes, “Happy Money” offers insightful guidance on how to reframe our relationship with money to prioritize long-term happiness and fulfillment.

Book Review

“Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn is a captivating and enlightening exploration of the relationship between money and happiness. Dunn, along with her co-author Michael Norton, dives deep into the concept that money can indeed buy happiness, but only if we spend it wisely.

Throughout the book, Dunn draws on various scientific studies and real-life examples to support her arguments. One particularly fascinating study she references is about the correlation between experiential purchases and happiness. Dunn explains that people tend to derive more happiness from experiences rather than material possessions. She shares an interesting anecdote about a woman named Karen, who decided to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Thailand instead of buying an expensive luxury handbag. Karen reported that her trip provided her with lasting memories and a sense of fulfillment that she wouldn’t have experienced with a material purchase. This example resonates with readers, highlighting the importance of investing in experiences that create cherished memories.

In another section of the book, Dunn discusses the joy of giving and how it can significantly impact happiness. She describes an experiment conducted at a university where participants were given either $5 or $20, with instructions to spend the money by the end of the day. The participants who spent the money on others reported higher levels of happiness than those who spent it on themselves. This finding supports Dunn’s argument that investing in others can be a powerful source of happiness. Furthermore, she suggests that even small acts of generosity, like buying a colleague a cup of coffee or leaving a generous tip for a server, can have a profound impact on our own well-being.

One of the book’s strengths is its practicality. Dunn doesn’t just provide theoretical explanations, but also offers actionable advice for readers. She suggests creating a “happiness budget” to allocate money specifically for experiences that will bring joy and fulfillment. By consciously setting aside money for activities such as travel, attending concerts, or dining out with loved ones, we can increase our overall happiness. Dunn also emphasizes the importance of aligning our spending choices with our personal values, advocating for supporting causes we truly care about and avoiding purchasing products or services that conflict with those values.

Happy Money” is well-researched and beautifully written. Dunn’s engaging storytelling, combined with the scientific evidence she presents, makes for an accessible and thought-provoking read. By challenging our conventional beliefs about money and happiness, the book encourages readers to redefine their spending habits and prioritize experiences and meaningful connections over material possessions. Anyone looking to gain a deeper understanding of how money impacts happiness and seeking practical strategies for making wiser spending choices will undoubtedly find value in this book.

Word Count: 455

Key Ideas

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton explores the relationship between money and happiness. The book presents several key ideas:

  1. Buy Experiences, Not Things One of the central ideas in the book is that spending money on experiences, such as travel, dining out, or attending events, tends to bring more happiness than spending on material possessions. Experiences create lasting memories and can enhance well-being.

  2. Make It a Treat Rather than indulging in something every day, make it an occasional treat. This concept, called “the treat factor,” can increase enjoyment and appreciation for the things you love.

  3. Buy Time Investing in ways to save time can lead to greater happiness. For example, outsourcing tasks that you dislike or that consume too much of your time can free you to engage in activities that bring joy.

  4. Pay Now, Consume Later The authors suggest that paying for something in advance, such as a vacation, can increase anticipation and enjoyment. Delaying consumption can enhance the overall experience.

  5. Invest in Others Spending money on others, whether through charitable donations or small acts of kindness, can boost happiness. Giving provides a sense of purpose and connection with others.

  6. Avoid Buyer's Remorse The book provides strategies to reduce buyer’s remorse, such as taking time to consider purchases, reframing your thinking about money, and focusing on the positive aspects of what you’ve bought.

  7. Spend on Experiences with People Combining spending on experiences with social connections can amplify happiness. Sharing experiences with others often leads to more enjoyment and deeper relationships.

  8. Cultivate Gratitude Practicing gratitude for the things you have can enhance your overall well-being. The book suggests keeping a gratitude journal or regularly reflecting on the positive aspects of your life.

  9. Don't Overdo It While spending money on experiences can bring happiness, the authors caution against overindulgence. Finding a balance between enjoying life and managing your finances responsibly is key.

  10. Mindful Spending The book encourages readers to be more mindful about their spending choices. Consider how purchases align with your values and whether they genuinely contribute to your happiness.

Happy Money” draws on research from psychology and behavioral economics to provide practical insights into how money can be used to increase happiness. It emphasizes that the way money is spent matters more than the amount of money itself. By making intentional spending choices that align with your values and enhance your well-being, you can use money as a tool to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Target Audience

The book “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn is targeted at a wide audience interested in the intersection of psychology, economics, and personal well-being. It is recommended reading for:

  • Individuals Seeking Happiness This book is perfect for anyone who is interested in understanding the link between money and happiness and wants to make more informed choices about how they spend their money. Readers looking for practical advice on how to maximize their happiness and find fulfillment in their financial decisions will find this book an invaluable resource.

  • Personal Finance Enthusiasts Those interested in personal finance and money management will find “Happy Money” to be a refreshing take on the subject. By exploring the science and psychology behind spending, the book offers a unique perspective on how money can be used as a tool to enhance well-being and lead a more fulfilling life.

  • Psychology and Economics Students Students studying psychology, economics, or the intersection between the two will find “Happy Money” to be a valuable source of knowledge and inspiration. The book provides thorough explanations of scientific studies and research findings that explore the connection between money and happiness, making it a must-read for students in these fields.

  • Self-help and Personal Development Readers The book’s focus on changing our mindset and habits when it comes to money makes it an excellent resource for individuals seeking personal growth and self-improvement. By providing actionable advice and practical strategies, “Happy Money” can help readers redefine their relationship with money and find greater happiness and satisfaction in their lives.

In conclusion, “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” is recommended reading for a diverse range of audiences, including those seeking happiness, individuals interested in personal finance, psychology and economics students, and readers on a path of personal development. By offering scientific insights and practical guidance, this book has the potential to transform readers’ perspectives on money and lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying approach to spending.