A new app helps you know when you’re spending to create happiness; plus what research shows actually drives happiness
Money really can buy happiness.
There’s one relationship in life that doesn’t get the attention it deserves—our connection with money. As a nation of people who feel financially anxious — according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2017 Planning and Progress Study, which also indicates that less than half of Americans feel very financially secure — money is often a sticky subject.
Now, there’s an app that can help you examine the psychology behind the way you spend money. Created by a team of psychologists, data scientists and financial services professionals, the free app Joy helps people identify exactly what makes them happy. Joy provides users with information on what kinds of purchases encourage happiness, and then encourages them to classify buys as “happy spends” or “sad spends”. Though there’s no report issued monthly with a statement of your spends, the app fosters spending awareness.
Of the more than 15,000 Joy users, 98% find happiness when contributing to their savings account, 89% feel fulfillment from their Spotify subscription, 89% are content with their Trader Joe’s purchases and 88% enjoy paying a monthly fee for Netflix.
When researchers study the connection between money and happiness, they also find that what you buy can influence how happy you are. Here’s what we know.
Buy things that give you more free time: According to a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences, spending money on time-saving services — like, say, hiring a cleaning person so you don’t have to spend hours scrubbing the floors — is linked to greater life satisfaction.
Spend on experiences: Joy’s scientific advisor, Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D, and author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending tells Moneyish, “People’s happiest spends include Spotify and Netflix. This pattern fits with a decade of research showing that people derive more happiness from buying experiences than from buying material things. When we think of buying experiences, we often think of going on a romantic getaway in Hawaii or dining out in Paris. But the results here show that even more ordinary experiences like listening to music or watching a movie may be important everyday sources of happiness.”
Amp up your savings: “Joy users rate putting money into their Joy savings account among their top happy spends. Typically, saving money doesn’t seem all that pleasurable — but I think Joy users are finding that tucking money away into savings can actually make them happy,” says Dunn. According to NerdWallet, studies in several countries have shown that an increase in assets is tied to an increase in happiness and an increase in debt often leads to dissatisfaction.
Share the wealth: Prosocial spending, or spending money on someone else can also increase happiness. A Harvard University study showed that people derive emotional benefits from being generous with their finances.
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