Friday, April 11, 2008

Happiness from Spending Money on Others

Science Magazine recently published a study that concludes that spending money on others is a reliable source of happiness for most people. The official abstract and link to the full study can be found here: Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness and you may have seen a few news articles last month based on this study.
Money can buy happiness, but only if you spend it on someone else, researchers reported on Thursday.

Spending as little as $5 a day on someone else could significantly boost happiness, the team at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found.

Their experiments on more than 630 Americans showed they were measurably happier when they spent money on others -- even if they thought spending the money on themselves would make them happier.

I remember being on a long road trip with a friend of mine. As she came to the first tollbooth, she gave the toll collector double the amount and said she wanted to pay for the person behind her. What? I had never heard of such a thing. Much less ever imagined that it would happen in NYC. As I tried to wrap my mind around this, I thought "How awesome to be the next car in line (especially for the exorbitant Holland or Lincoln Tunnel tolls)!"

This friend of mine said she did it almost every time she went through a toll. My immediate reaction was, "My goodness, that's a lot of money to spend on strangers!" According to her, the benefits of making someone's day was well worth the money:

"It just makes me happy thinking about that person's reaction, even though I'll never see it. It's something simple that makes me happy, makes them happy, and hopefully it'll have a ripple effect where the next people we interact with will benefit from our better mood and be a bit happier themselves."

Next time you're in the cash lane, give it a try and see if you feel happier. Who knows, maybe the person in front of you already paid for you!

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