Happy Money vs Unhappy Money

Following our posts last week on mental accounting, here’s another concept I recently came across that you’ll probably love or hate depending on how emotional/logical you are ;)


Happy Money vs Unhappy Money:

“Happy Money makes people smile and feel loved and cared for deeply… It is in many ways an active form of love… Conversely, Unhappy Money is the kind of money you use begrudgingly… Money circulated in frustration, anger, sadness, and despair is Unhappy Money.”

It comes from personal development expert, Ken Honda, and is the focus of his next book set to be released this upcoming June: Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money

happy money book

Here are some examples of these two types of money, taken right off their press release I got:

Happy Money is:

  • The kind a 10-year-old boy uses to buy flowers for his mom on Mother’s Day
  • When parents gladly pinch pennies to save a few extra dollars each week and send their kids to soccer camp or piano lessons
  • Helping a struggling family member out of a bind
  • Sending a few dollars to those affected by a hurricane
  • Investing in a business or community project
  • Receiving money for work or services from satisfied clients
  • All money circulated with love, care, and friendship

Unhappy Money is:

  • Paying or receiving money as alimony after an ugly divorce
  • Receiving a salary for a job you don’t like but can’t bring yourself to leave
  • Unwillingly paying off credit cards with huge interest rates (J$: unhappy, but very smart!! And will turn into happy money when you’re done!! ;))
  • Receiving money from someone who resents paying you — like an unhappy customer who says, “You don’t deserve it, but I’ll pay you anyway to honor the contract.”
  • Stealing money — from anyone.

YES to all of this! Haha… Money can 100% feel differently depending on how you use it! It doesn’t necessarily mean you can *control* a lot of these circumstances or that it’s *worth* a different amount, but it surely can affect your mood and a bunch of other things that could follow if not reigned in…

Which I think is the main takeaway here, at least for me. If you can figure out how your money *affects* you, you can better adjust it towards reaching those goals and lifestyle more. It’s not about having “the feels” and then letting them be, it’s DOING SOMETHING with them so you can achieve even more happiness down the line! Or at least suppressing the more negative ones as much as you can.

It’s very much Marie Kondo’esque, only for your *wallet* instead of your things ;) Something the book plays off of, especially in it’s marketing, haha…

But look how rosey this sounds?

“I believe it begins with gratitude… Instead of believing there is never enough, you begin thinking: ‘I have all that I need and I am so grateful for it all. I am grateful for the work I do, the food I eat, the car I drive, and all the money I make.’ When money comes in, you say, ‘Thank you’ or, as we say in Japan, ‘Arigato.’ Even when money leaves you, you can say it again, grateful for how the money served you or what it is bringing to you now.”

How can you go wrong feeling so grateful? Even though I know we like to talk about how to continually get MORE day in and day out on this blog, haha…

Anyways, I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on a couple of copies to give away if you like this stuff, but in the meantime wanted to pass it along in case it brightens your day too. You can check out Ken’s website or the book’s Amazon page for more info.

Arigato, my fine readers of this blog! I appreciate you! ;)

For the first part of this series, click here: Do you treat your money differently depending on *how* you get it? And for the second part, click here: The “endowment effect” and “nudge theory”

// Amazon links are affiliate links

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  1. Kate April 3, 2019 at 6:08 AM

    My husband treats every bill that came through the letter box as a personal assault. Taxes, water, electricity… You name it. I see how much he gets worked up and how paying these bills causes such angst I try to do the opposite. How privileged we that we have clean running, HOT water in our home. And how lucky we are that we can afford to pay for that privilege.

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 6:46 AM

      I think maybe you need to be the one to handle all bills going forward, haha…

    2. Bryan April 3, 2019 at 7:53 AM

      “A personal assault” Hahahaa…that’s awesome! I’m going to use that if I may.

    3. spiffi April 10, 2019 at 11:19 PM

      I don’t get upset at bills – I figure if I used the service, I should pay for it.

      EXCEPT for medical bills! They PISS ME OFF every single time. I’m Canadian and moved to the US 19 years ago – and I’m STILL deeply offended every time I receive a bill for a doctor visit or procedure.

      Never going to get used to that!

      1. J. Money April 11, 2019 at 6:58 AM

        Haha I imagine so!! It definitely sucks to get sick here :(

  2. Debbie April 3, 2019 at 6:39 AM

    I can relate to this. Had 2 unhappy $$ situations lately. $8500 out of pocket for hubby’s recent double knee replacement. After 4 weeks he took his first car ride alone. Dropped his phone in a parking lot. Immediately went back & someone ran it over. It was only 6 months old. So an unexpected expense buying a new one. BUT happy $$ today. I cashed in credit card points. Got a $50 gift card for $40 for my best friend’s favorite restaurant. I can’t wait to surprise her! I also bought a wonderful Mother’s Day gift this week that I know my mother will love. This article is spot on: we need to appreciate all that we have & not dwell on what we don’t have. Thanx for another inspiring article.

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 6:48 AM

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Debbie!! What an awesome way to use your credit card points!! :) (And make sure your husband never plays the lottery with his luck, haha…)

  3. [HCF] April 3, 2019 at 7:34 AM

    Maybe I am too much of logical/practical person but I would change this like:
    Happy money – the money I own
    Unhappy money – the difference between my happy money and enough money which I don’t own :D

    Anyways, arigato for bringing another interesting conception to our money lives :)

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 7:47 AM

      Haha… That works too ;)

  4. Minimal Millionaire Mom April 3, 2019 at 8:26 AM

    You had me at Marie Kondoing for the wallet!

    You can’t go wrong with gratitude. I highly recommend starting a gratitude journal. I use a gratitude phone app that allows me to conveniently add what I’m grateful for each day. The app also includes a very motivating/inspirational quote every day. If I need to be reminded what I’ve been grateful for in the past, it is at my fingertips.

    Gratitude helped me see all I had, at a time in my life that I could only see what I didn’t have. Changing my mindset, changed my life for the better.

    1. Irish April 3, 2019 at 8:34 AM

      That sounds like a great app! What’s it called?

      1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 11:01 AM

        I second that request!!

        Love that last line up there!

      2. Minimal Millionaire Mom April 4, 2019 at 8:13 AM

        It’s called Gratitude – Happiness Journal. The logo is a flower with a heart.

        Hope it’s helpful to you!

  5. Financially Fit Mom April 3, 2019 at 8:48 AM

    My focus this year has been to really pay attention to the value my spending brings. I’ve actually added a tab to my spreadsheet (yes, I still use spreadsheets and I love them) where I note everything I buy outside of what I consider living essentials. I have created a point system that ranges from 1 (shouldn’t have) to 10 (making my dreams come true) and a then a couple middle items for an items I want/need and has been on my list for awhile and I found a good deal on it (replacing 15 year old pans) and items that maybe I wouldn’t normally have done but it was worth it for relationships (happy hour with business partners). I never really thought of it as happy or unhappy money, but I would say those items that I mark as “shouldn’t have” would be unhappy money or buyers-remorse and putting extra attention to it and knowing I’ll have to identify it has really helped me avoid some impulse purchases.

    1. Adam April 3, 2019 at 10:30 AM

      When it comes to the FIRE community, aside from how supportive everyone is, I particularly enjoy all the myriad methods folks use to track and incentivize and expose financial behaviors. I never would have thought of this, and it may or may not be a worthwhile addition to someone’s planning, but it works for you and it may work for loads of others — and we might not have heard about it but for your choice to share it in this comment and J$’s blog post and us being here reading both. Serendipity!

      1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 11:08 AM

        Amen to that!!

        In fact, I’m working up a roundup of ideas like this for tomorrow’s post, so now I gotta make sure I include this in there too as I agree – who knows how many others it could help?!

        Thanks for taking the time FF Mom!

        1. Financially Fit Mom April 26, 2019 at 2:02 PM

          One team one dream! :)

  6. Abigail @ipickuppennies April 3, 2019 at 11:14 AM

    I pay off my credit cards every month, but I definitely still treat it like unhappy money! I hate waving farewell to my money for any reason. Even a good one. So pretty much any bill (except my mortgage) = unhappy money. Then again, happy money is the stuff I bank or that goes toward paying off my mortgage early. That stuff makes me INCREDIBLY happy. Which just about balances out the negativity. And sometimes that’s about all you can ask for.

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 4:00 PM

      Interesting that you love your mortgage payments vs your credit card ones! More fun gaining equity vs more “stuff” I’m supposing?

  7. Kristen April 3, 2019 at 12:52 PM

    I’ve got a Note on my phone I started last year titled “$$ I didn’t enjoy spending” where I record bad purchases. I noticed I kept on buying bad stuff on repeat because I couldn’t remember I didn’t like it (yep, major space cadet!!!) so I had to write things down. Interestingly, most of the items I’ve recorded were disappointing food.

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 4:01 PM

      HAH! Now if only you can remember to check it *Before* each purchase so you don’t keep forgetting :)

  8. Joe April 3, 2019 at 1:36 PM

    Interesting… I have a very short memory so it doesn’t really matter where the money comes from. They all go into the bank.
    I have some unhappy money coming my way soon, though. A bike crashed into the back of my car. He’s not hurt, but the repair bill will be around $4,500. I really hope the insurance steps up and send me some unhappy money.

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 4:02 PM

      Are we talking about a bike-bike or a motorcycle?! Sounds like he was smart and wore a helmet!

  9. MsFISeeker April 3, 2019 at 1:45 PM

    I can relate to the unhappy vs happy money. However that last payment to that credit card is magically turned into happy money when its a card you’ve been battling for awhile. Seems to feel completely uhappy if it’s just a repeat of the balance going to $0 because you’re trying to travel hack.

    1. J. Money April 3, 2019 at 4:04 PM

      I respect all y’all hackers as I can’t stand having tons of cards and balances all over the place to keep track of, haha… Just one boring – yet simple! – credit card for me! :)

  10. Deanna April 3, 2019 at 10:50 PM

    Um, 100% yes! It’s so makes a difference on how you’ve received your $ and what you are doing with it.

    The biggest takeaway (which you hit on) is if your are in an unhappy place with your $, keep taking necessary steps to transition to a more happier place with your $.

    When I was paying off debt, I became $ happier as I stuck to the plan. I started to recognize that the same thing which I had been crushed by was just a simple tool. The key was learning how to properly use that tool ;)

    1. J. Money April 4, 2019 at 6:59 AM

      And now look at you go!! You OWN that money! :)

  11. Wholesome Wallet September 20, 2019 at 3:29 PM

    I will prefer “happy money” any day. Life is too short. Receiving alimony and unusually high child support payments is what I would call “unhappy money.”