We’ve all heard that money can’t buy happiness, but do we believe it? It’s easy to imagine how money could solve our problems, especially when we’re talking about debt, but is money a requirement for happiness? Can we be happy on any income?
My belief is that we really can be happy no matter what our bank account or our paychecks look like. In fact, I think that being happy where you’re at actually helps you progress faster to where you’d like to be. Contentment will save you more money and pay off more debt than feeling sorry for yourself will.
Don’t mistake content for “satisfied with the status quo” or “without motivation to make forward strides.” For me, contentment means being happy at every stage in the game and not letting our circumstances dictate our level of happiness.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel genuinely happy or to pull yourself out of a slump. Some people have a more natural inclination to happiness while others have to work harder at it. Here are some of the ways that help me keep my perspective and find joy in the journey, not just at the finish line.
1- Don’t compare
When we compare ourselves with others we are never comparing apples with apples. Our perspective will always be skewed. We can never take into account all the facets of their experience, struggles, work, talents, etc, so we will never make a fair comparison.
Don’t ask how much other people make. Don’t feel jealous of someone’s home or car or job. Don’t assume that someone else has a perfect life.
When we compare, either we will feel jealous or we will feel prideful. Neither pride nor jealousy will help you achieve your goals and they certainly won’t make you happy!
2- Focus on your blessings
Instead of dwelling on what we don’t have, let’s focus our attention on what we do have. The more you focus on being grateful, the happier you will be. There is always a reason to give thanks, even when everything seems to be going wrong.
If you’re really struggling, try making an actual list of the people, experiences, opportunities, and blessings in your life.
When gratitude becomes a habit, happiness will follow.
3- Serve others
When I am in a slump thinking my life is hard, the fastest way to get myself out of it is to go outside myself and help someone else. It’s amazing how much lighter my burden feels when I let it go so I can carry someone else’s.
Visit someone who’s lonely. Surprise your spouse with something special. Read a few extra books to your kids. Help someone do something hard.
Serving others helps change your attitude and gives you a new perspective.
4- Improve yourself
Improve yourself and do it for the right reasons (see #1). Set a goal and challenge yourself. Self-mastery, learning, and personal improvement will be more fulfilling than a perceived competition.
Learn a new skill. Brush up on an old one. Memorize something motivational. Exercise. Read a book.
Feeling better about yourself will help you to be happy no matter your financial status.
If you aren’t happy when you make $20K, you won’t be happy making $120K because happiness doesn’t come from money. Can you imagine how much life we waste when we say “I’ll be happy when…” and believe it?
How about you?
- Do you catch yourself saying “I’ll be happy when…”?
- What helps you to be content even when your financial picture isn’t pretty?
- What do you do to pull yourself out of a slump?
- How does being happy help you make progress toward your goals?
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Rana Kurban says
Thank you for this article! I feel so happy after reading this because this is the exact stage I am currently at in my life when it comes to my happiness. Money is important in whatever we do, as well as a good attitude when times get tough. Money cannot always buy happiness but it always creates a stability in all of our lives.
Tracy @ OurSimpleLifeSC says
I love this and it is so true! If you aren’t happy when you make $20K, you won’t be happy making $120K because happiness doesn’t come from money.
We strive to live on less and pride ourselves with being ok about it. We do not drive fancy cars or live in a big house, but we love what we have and try really hard to find happiness in the little things in life!
That’s great Tracy! Thanks for sharing!
Liz S says
Loved this post, Stephanie. Super encouraging! Thanks for sharing.
What a great post! My problem is being anxious and wanting our debt-freedom to happen today!!! I keep telling myself and my hubby to look at how much we’ve already accomplished in such a short time. Hopefully, God willing, we can scream we’re debt free by this time next year! 🙂
You’re so close Margaret!!!
Found your blog today linked from rockstarfinance.com and look forward to reading all your archives in the coming weeks! Even made up 5 bags of brownie mix tonight! Yum!
Mmm brownies! I’m glad you found me Susan! 🙂
These are all fantastic tips. I especially like the recommendation to help others. There’s so much need out there, and it’s easy to get caught in a “me, me, me” attitude. In many ways I think it’s easier to be unhappy when you’re making what is often considered a ‘large’ income. I have friends with the attitude that because they make a good salary they should be able to buy whatever they want, whenever they want it. Reality just doesn’t work that way. Maybe I should send this post to them!
🙂 It is easy to get caught up in yourself. Society tells us that’s what we should do. Getting outside of yourself really puts things in perspective.
My husband and I went through a really rough time 3 years ago. His employer had reduced everyone’s hours 2 years previous, sometimes as little as 2 days a week. Then he had no work at all for 10 full months.
He wasn’t able to find other work with being older and walking with a pronounced limp. I worked full-time selling shoes but for commission only. No sale, no money after 8 hours on the floor.
After 2 years of dipping into our savings to pay for winter heating and prescription medicines (no health insurance), there was nothing left. We lost everything we owned, including the small apartment we had been renting. We sold our old car for train fare and moved to a warmer climate with a much cheaper cost of living.
That happened 3 years ago. Today, we own a small 700 sq.ft. house, a used but reliable car in the driveway, and look forward to retirement in the near future.
We bounced back because we refused to feel sorry for ourselves. Also, we were never people who kept up with the Jones. No credit cards, no debts, no vices like smoking or drinking.
We’ve always been content with whatever we had. It’s easier to be happy when you accept the blessings you already have. For us, it’s being with each other for the past 38 years.
Wow Diane! You’ve been through so much! I love that you recognize the blessing of your marriage and that it helps you to be content with whatever you have. Thanks for sharing your story.
This is one area I’ve been struggling with lately, mostly because I feel like we’re not making as much progress toward our goals (namely student loans). I know any progress is good progress, but I’ve definitely found myself in a slump! My boyfriend helps keep me in check. He is naturally more easygoing than I am, so it helps to have his perspective. I have definitely caught myself saying “I’ll be happy when..” in the past. I’ve stopped that now! Life is what we make it, we can’t sit around waiting for a reason to be happy.
That’s great that he’s there to balance you out and keep you in check!
I am naturally a very happy and content person, but sometimes I get the “I wants”. I want to go on vacation. I want to have a new car. etc. I know that truly I love my used reliable (AND PAID OFF) car, but sometimes seeing others with things gives you the envie (an old Cajun word my grandmother used for “the wants”.)
I grew up with very little money, but lots and lots of love. My moma always told me to put things in perspective. When a co-worker gets a new car I have to remember how many more hours a week they have to work to pay for it. I get to have free time off when they don’t. I get to spend time with my family when they are at work all night. Then I am reminded that my priorities are different (not that one is good or bad, just different). I prioritize family and love over material things.
Perspective definitely helps with contentment.
Yes! Perspective makes a big difference in most trials that we go through. I’m so glad that you grew up with lots of love. That probably plays a big role in your being naturally happy and content– you learned early on what really mattered.
Beth @Goodness Gracious Living says
It’s so hard, but you are so right! I have an easy time with #3 and #4, but I am still working on #1 and #2. But, once I get through #4 (getting recertified in my profession), I plan to help out with the debt. That will make me happy 🙂
That’s great that you can see where your weaknesses and strengths are. Congrats on working on your recertification!
I have been content with little and content with relatively much. However, when there isn’t enough money to pay the bills (due to debt or inadequate income) it is hard to be happy. We had a terrible year a few years back where we had to sell our car and do without 2 in order to survive. When my husband got a raise and we were able to purchase a used car in cash (along with joining a gym! Exercise and showering without interruptions has greatly increased my happiness)- did help me be more content. A lot of it was attitude though.
I think I read a statistic that happiness and income have a correlary effect until 50,000 and then it doesn’t predict happiness.
It is harder to be happy when you there isn’t enough money to meet your basic needs. You’re right about attitude though. It makes all the difference. That’s great that you have experience with both having lots and having little and being content either way.
debt debs says
Definitely best to live in the moment, and by that I don’t mean ignore the consequences of your actions. I mean live your life purposefully and count your blessings as you say. Don’t think that the future will be better. The future is now, so live like you are in the future and make great decisions, do great things and be grateful and loving with every step you take.
Right on! There’s no guarantee of tomorrow, so why not be happy today?