You Can Buy A Lot of Fun, but Happiness is Not For Sale

Guest post by Brad Chaffee

Have you ever heard someone say, “If I only had _____ I would be happy? Have you ever said it yourself? I know I sure have, but it wasn’t until I started learning about becoming debt free that I realized why that was a huge misjudgment. Like me, many people have made the mistake of thinking money is going to buy them happiness, when really it’s just our way of trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable. It sort of reminds me of a cheesy love story from the 80’s called Can’t Buy Me Love. I consider love to be happiness, and I know for a fact you can’t buy that. If you had to buy it, it sure wouldn’t be love that’s for sure.

Fun, however, can be bought – just like a politician!

Regardless of what you may think, fun and happiness are quite different. People should have fun, and even buy it when they can, but when you confuse it with happiness, you may be missing the bigger picture. Fun is nice. Go on a 10-day trip to Europe, take a cruise, visit an amusement park, go see a movie, but don’t think for one second that it’s where happiness resides. Happiness comes from a completely different place, and it cannot be bought. Happiness is family, love, contentment, and financially it is debt freedom. Money is not happiness, but it sure is a lot of fun!

If you go around trying to buy happiness you will find that there will always be “one more thing” to buy in order to achieve it.

  • If I only had a *better house* I’d be happy.
  • If I only had a *newer car* I’d be happy.
  • If I only had the *newer model* I’d be happy.
  • If I only had the *60′ Plasma* I’d be happy.

So as you can see, chasing happiness with money will only result in a cycle that will continue on to the *next best thing*. There will always be something else you can buy to “fill that void”, but what if you were happy with what you had?

Chasing contentment will give you much greater satisfaction.

Seeking contentment in your life will provide a better chance at achieving happiness, not to mention a greater sense of freedom. Being happy with what you have is just like already having everything you want. Go have some fun, and you can even spend some money on it, but don’t expect it to make you happy. Fun goes away after a short period of time, but happiness can last forever.

I admit that temptation can sometimes cloud our judgment, it certainly gives me some trouble from time to time, but all it takes is a mental slap in the face for me to realize that I am chasing something I could never buy with money. Sometimes I’ll still buy it, but at least I was able to see it for what it really was — some fun! Are you chasing happiness, or are you just having some fun?

Can you recall a specific time when you caught yourself chasing happiness with money? What was it, and what made you come to your senses? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Brad Chaffee blogs over at Enemy of Debt – one of my all-time favorites out there. The passion this guy spews is incredible :)Β  You better not like debt if you click on over though, he’s pretty hardcore…

(Photo by irina`)

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  1. FinancialBondage May 21, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    I agree, you can buy fun, but not happiness.

  2. Everyday Tips May 21, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    As I read more and more articles about people that get windfalls and end up bankrupt, I am convinced money does not buy happiness, if not used properly. Money should be able to buy security somewhat, in that you should be free from debt and the strain of financial obligations. But for those that are not equipped to handle money, it may just cause more problems.

    I totally agree that money can buy contentment. Money can buy whatever you want, if you have the mindset and are in the right situation. For instance, if you have a terminal illness, money cannot fix your situation. (Generally)

    My goal was never to accumulate enough money to be rich. Rich is a fluid term. It means different things to different people. But when I have enough money to travel like I want and all my bills are paid, I will consider myself rich, and happy, and secure, and content.

  3. Ariella Brown May 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    Well put. The “for everything else there is MasterCard” is the fun stuff you can buy. And people do require certain needs and a modicum of fun in order to feel happy. But the feeling of happiness does not automatically come as a result of money. What one person calls rich, another calls merely enough. There’s a terrific illustration of that in the conversation between the two sisters in the 17th chapter of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility:

    Marianne asks, “What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?”

    “Grandeur has but little,” said Elinor, “but wealth has much to do with it.”

    “Elinor, for shame!” said Marianne, “money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.”

    “Perhaps,” said Elinor, smiling, “we may come to the same point. YOUR competence and MY wealth are very much alike, I dare say; and without them, as the world goes now, we shall both agree that every kind of external comfort must be wanting. Your ideas are only more noble than mine. Come, what is your competence?”

    “About eighteen hundred or two thousand a year; not more than THAT.”

    Elinor laughed. “TWO thousand a year! ONE is my wealth! I guessed how it would end.”

  4. Stephan May 21, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    not only can you buy fun i think you actually should once in a while. Its important people dont only focus on making money, cutting debt etc. Once in a while, people need to have fun, and money definitely helps with that.

  5. Rex Huston May 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    while money can’t buy happiness directly, I think it could lead to happiness. People just use money for the wrong things. Having money allows you to use your time for other purposes other than earning money. Spend time with your family, exploring, learning, doing whatever you like to do. Sure buying a plasma wont bring happiness, but using that money to take some extra days off to be with your family can.

  6. Money Smarts May 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Money is a tool that when used can be used in a positive or negative way.. Yes, it can probably bump your mood and make you happy for the short term, or even free up time that allows you to do things that make you happy, but the fact remains – if you’re a miserable poor person, most of the time you’ll find a way to be a miserable rich person as well. It all comes down to attitude, life outlook and an internal peace..

  7. May 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    You can be the poorest person in the world but may be one of the happiest, while the richest man might be the most miserable of all. Money is only relevant when you make it so. Happiness comes from contentment, contentment comes from inside you. If you can’t find that, then it makes no difference how many things you surround yourself with or how much money you have stuffed in your mattress, you will always be restless looking for the next fix to get you through.

    When my husband and i travel we like to get off the beaten path and go where the locals go. There is no travel experience greater than when you visit the ‘real’ location of whatever country, state, town you are visiting. When you immerse yourself into the local culture. One of the great side-effects of this type of traveling is expenses. When you are not paying for the ‘tourist trap mentality’ your experiences become that much richer, your money goes that much further.

    Let’s face it, we all need some money to LIVE in this world, how much and what you choose to do with it makes all the difference.

  8. Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio May 21, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Great post, Brad!

    This issue of contentment has been all over the place recently. It seems that the fallout from the recession has people everywhere questioning what matters most.

    I agree with Rex’s comment above that while money itself doesn’t purchase happiness, it does allow options that conribute toward a feeling of deep satisfaction and contentment (like spending more time with family).

    The challenge, of course, is balancing what it takes to have those options with what it will cost in the meantime. For example, do I work 80-hour work weeks for ten years so I have the financial means/flexibility to take days off, only to discover that, because of all that work, I’m relationally distant from my wife and kids? That’s an easy trap to fall into.

    What helps me refocus my priorities is when I look at “fun” spending as a blessing rather than a requirement for my life. If I can be content with a healthy family, food, shelter, and something productive to do each day, then I can treat anything beyond that as special – a blessing – and not get wrapped up in the consumerism that so often translates into discontentment.

  9. Favor May 21, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Thankfully, I don’t chase happiness with money. Basically because my life is rooted in Christ.

    But I do like to have fun. And travel. And just relax outside. I agree with most of Derek’s last paragraph, I treat things like that as a blessing :)

  10. kt May 21, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    i think that you can buy happiness but something that you cannot buy is joy. By definition happiness is what you feel when good things are happening to you. When you have fun, you are happy. so the only thing that you have to do is spend some cash and be happy. Joy is something that God gives

  11. Yana May 21, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Money is not love, and it can’t buy happiness. Having said that, life is much better when you have enough money.

    One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I am possibly too thankful. As a result of being happy with what I have, I am not ambitious at all. The most current example is that we are looking at homes, after having rented for many years – and it is my husband that is pushing for this. Only because he wants it have I considered that it could be a good thing to do; after all, our place is getting old and has already had problems with termites. His problem is that he doesn’t like neighbors or not having a garage. I see advantages, but I also see what we have – a very cost-effective way to live. I love not spending much money! And I appreciate all the good things right where we are.

    As far as happiness, I’ve never been happier, but I am stressed about the house thing. I wish we’d just find the one and have enough money to buy it, so I could get back to everyday comfortable living. I’ve always been appreciative of every little thing, but the happiness factor for me is about having a peaceful home and not having to be around people who are troublemakers. When I parted ways with people (by nature, not intention) who lived to make others miserable, I got so happy from the relief that it almost seems like a disorder. LOL. But I don’t want the cure!

  12. Brad Chaffee May 21, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    @EVERYONE – I am so sorry I am just now getting to respond here. I was really looking forward to seeing your response. I have been out all day helping my in-laws remodel their new house they will be moving into next month. LOTS of painting!

    @Everyday Tips – Well said. It’s all about mindset. There is a direct correlation between your mindset and how you act based on how you think. It really is everything and unfortunately people make the mistake of thinking money will solve problems. The real problem solver is ourselves and we can use money as a tool to make it easier.

    @Ariella Brown – That is definitely a great illustration, thank you for sharing it! :D

    @Stephan – Damn right man, otherwise you will lose your frickin mind. LOL People have got the mindset that fun is owed to them before security so they obsess about having fun all the while their financial situation is getting worse. People have to know when to sacrifice fun so that happiness can manifest itself in the form of security later in life. It’s NOT fun scraping together pennies at retirement to pay for your light bill. :) Great comment!

    @Rex Huston – You’re very right Rex! Happiness can become a result of spending money but I think you nailed it when you said “taking some days off to spend with your family can.”

    My thoughts exactly! ;)

    @Money Smarts – You are so right. If you are miserable, it’s not money that will make you happy, it’s what you value and how you embrace what’s important to you. :) – Exactly, the hole will continue to exist until you address what’s really making you unhappy! Rich or poor, your happiness comes from a place that money can’t buy.

    @Derek Sisterhen – Amen Derek! I like the way you think. If you are content with what you have and have made sure there is balance in your life, then everything that comes beyond that is not only more enjoyable, but it is certainly more special. Something I need to use that thinking with is eating out. I enjoy eating out, but I bet I would enjoy it a whole lot more if I didn’t do it quite so much. haha! The novelty of what we do always makes it more enjoyable in the end.

    Excellent comment Derek…your radio show rocks man! Keep up the terrific work you are doing!

    @Favor – That’s a great way to view the world! My father-in-law always tells me to Christ is happiness and I have to agree completely. :)

    @Yana – Believe me I understand completely how you feel about the new home issue. We are currently selling our house so that we can rent. Our idea is that for the next 5 years we will save, save, save, and when the time is right we will buy our house without the burden that is debt. Another thing I like about renting instead is that there is also a lot less responsibility. It’s a lot less stressful to call the landlord than it is to fork over the dough to fix your plumbing nightmare.

    On the other hand, now probably is one of the best times to buy a house if you’re in the market for one. If I were buying right now, and was going to have to get a mortgage, I would totally get a 15-year fixed rate. That would help me sleep better at night for sure. :D

    TAHNK YOU EVERYONE for the great comments, and again I am so very sorry it took me all day to respond. Have a great weekend, I am so glad you enjoyed this post!

  13. Ace @ May 24, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    This is a really great topic. What makes it so difficult is that it’s so easy for us to identify when this happens to other people. We can see people’s vain attempt to buy happiness, for example the stories of lottery winners losing all their money and getting into debt. What is difficult for us to see is how we do this ourselves. The best thing is to become aware of your tendencies and try to catch them before they happen.

    Great post Brad!

  14. Brad Chaffee May 24, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    @Ace – I don’t think it is as difficult to see in ourselves as we think, it’s just that so many people are in denial when it comes to their own financial motivations. Being in denial means that you can still justify your purchases. ;) haha!

    Thanks for the great comment, I am glad you enjoyed this post. :D

  15. J. Money May 31, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Yeah dude, you ROCKED THIS OUT!!!! Well done my friend, I can always count on you for guest posting here :) Thanks for responding back to everyone’s comments too – very much appreciated. Here’s to happiness!

  16. Brad Chaffee May 31, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    The honor was all mine bro! Your readers are AWESOME man! Anytime you want a guest post you know I’m up for it! Also, really glad you had a great time and made it home safely. :)

  17. Aury (Thunderdrake) May 31, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Achieving financial independence; that which your passive income exceeds your necessities, is one of the most best feelings out there. You just don’t get that with buying a fancy car or any other doodad you can name. Just being able to thrive with indentured servitude creates a feeling of incredibly liberty.

  18. Brad Chaffee May 31, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    That’s right Aury! Freedom gives you options and the liberty to design your life in a way that gives you happiness as a result. That’s one of the biggest benefits I have experienced from becoming debt free…FREEDOM! There’s simply NOTHING like it!!