There’s an old adage: Money can’t buy happiness. But there are plenty of twists on that saying.
One 2015 country song by Chris Janson claims, “money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy me a boat.” Janson’s point is pretty clear: If you have money, you can certainly smooth the way for yourself in life, or treat yourself to material things which often do bring happiness.
But not every purchase that brings people joy has to be boat-level expensive. There are other ways to use retail therapy that don’t involve emptying your wallet.
Here’s a look at several purchases that can actually make you happier – some, of course, are more costly than others.
1. Slow cooker or Instant Pot
Not having to worry about dinner after work — or not spending a lot on meal delivery — can eliminate a lot of stress. But if your slow cooker is bubbling away all day, you can come home to delicious smells and a homemade hot meal.
Pro tip: If the Instant Pot is your cooking gadget of choice, the Delay Start button is your friend. Instant Pots cook meals much faster than slow cookers, but it’s still nice to be able to control the cook time so it begins while you’re commuting home.
Whether it’s a human cleaning service or a Roomba (robot vacuum), getting out of doing as many chores as possible is immensely satisfying. Anything that lets you spend more time making the messes rather than cleaning them is worthwhile. And if you can get your cat to ride the Roomba, and make a video of it, you might be able to go viral.
3. Travel and other memorable experiences
Possessions are fine, but it’s experiences, such as vacations and travel, that really create memories and bring us happiness.
There’s even scientific research behind this idea, with a published study showing that money spent on doing things brings more happiness than buying things.
I treasure the memory of riding a cable car in San Francisco more than I remember any one souvenir I purchased there. And travel needn’t be out of financial reach – here are seven ways you can travel for free.
Like happiness, you can’t buy friendship – but you can add a dog, cat, or other pet to your life, which is almost the same thing.
It may seem odd to list a pet as a purchase, though whether acquired from an animal shelter or a breeder, money often does change hands.
Still, the Humane Society of the United States says only 3% of pet owners consider their pets “property” – a whopping 80% say they’re “family.” Of course, remember that pets are living beings – only add one to your life if you’re willing and able to care for and love it. (And here are six sane ways to lower your pet bills.)
I do not have a green thumb. But even I recognize that the few houseplants I can keep alive (succulents, mainly) help cheer me up.
Studies cited by NBC News report that indoor plants not only boost their owner’s mood, but improve concentration and productivity by up to 15% while reducing stress levels.
6. Charitable donations
By helping others, we help ourselves. There’s a charity for every person’s interest — animal shelters, cancer-research groups, organizations that feed the hungry or help children.
And a 2010 study reported by Utah State University found that people experienced happier moods when they gave more money away, as long as they had the choice of how much to give. Here are six tips for donating to charity in a smart way.
Wait, what? How can simple birdseed improve our happiness?
It turns out that feeding and watching our feathered friends, and simply being surrounded by a diverse group of them, can make us as happy as a monetary raise.
Birdwatching and bird feeding became even more popular during the pandemic, Forbes reports, since they can be done easily from one’s own home. And the hobby is inexpensive and can travel with you. That’s im-peckable logic.