How Could $100 Make Me Happier?

moneyA couple weeks ago, I was kicking around some ideas about a blog contest to promote my new book. I thought I’d offer up $100 cash in exchange for reviews, posts, tweets, etc.

I sent a message out on Twitter and Facebook, intending to to make sure that $100 would be enough to entice people to take action.

“Could you buy something for $100 that would make you happier?”

I was surprised at the overwhelming response:


Over and over again people told me that $100 couldn’t buy anything that would really make a long-term difference in their happiness. They said stuff like, “I’d rather have more time with my kids.” Everyone was much more enlightened and mature than I had anticipated.

For multiple reasons, I decided to nix the giveaway idea, but I haven’t stopped thinking about the $100 question.

Everyone in my house gets a monthly allowance, even the adults. I can spend my allowance however I see fit, but it has to cover everything non-essential. Entertainment, new clothes, coffee with a girlfriend – it all comes out of the allowance.

In recent months, our budget has become even tighter, and I’ve found myself getting frustrated at how little my allowance can buy.

It definitely hasn’t bought me a lot of happiness.

If anything, my envelope full of cash (or rather, my envelope containing cash) has brought me stress, because there hasn’t seemed to be enough twenty dollar bills in it. Or five dollar bills.

I’ve focused on my limits and all the things I’m not buying. I think about having to choose between a new (to me) belt and a couple visits to the froyo shop. I think about how one massage would eat up the bulk of the bills.

I am not happy thinking about what I can or cannot buy with $100.

And then everyone else said that they wouldn’t be able to buy happiness with $100 either, and something about that didn’t seem right.

If my money isn’t making me happier, why am I worried about having more or less of it?

So, I asked myself, what could I do with $100 that I know would make me happier?

Like my Twitter and Facebook friends, I couldn’t think of one single thing I could buy for myself that would really make me happier. Not a really great dress or a beautiful bag. Not a new gadget or a meal at a great restaurant. There wasn’t one single purchase I could think of that would be worth forgoing all other purchases that month.

What else, then, could I do with $100 to make myself happier?

Giving away $100 might make me happy.

I could:

  • Surprise a friend with a trip to the day spa for a massage – for her.
  • Hand a $20 bill to five homeless people I pass on the street.
  • Stop at a coffee shop and buy a drink for everyone in line.
  • Put a $100 bill in an envelope and leave it in a neighbor’s mailbox.

Just imagining giving these unexpected gifts makes me smile. I bet it would cause a ripple effect from me, to the receiver, to the people they encountered all day.

Seriously, how fun would it be to invite someone over for lunch and then say, “surprise! You’re actually getting a massage. Enjoy!”? I bet I’d enjoy the glow from that fun for weeks.

Investing $100 in my relationships might make me happy.

I could:

  • Take my husband out on a fancy date.
  • Surprise one of the kids with pizza and a movie at the theater, followed by ice cream.
  • Plan one dinner with a girlfriend each week.
  • Invite a new friend out for lunch – my treat.
  • Pay for a weekend of camping with my family and any adventurous friends.

Of course, doing that would mean fewer new-to-me belts and visits to the froyo shop. It would mean going longer between haircuts and maybe not having wine to drink at home. It would definitely mean not having margaritas at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant.

But maybe that would be better.

I’m so used to trying to figure out how to squeeze as many things and experiences out of a dollar that I rarely consider the value of one big spend. But what if I did?

I have $93 dollars in my wallet right now that I’ve been clinging to all month, afraid that I’d spend it and then wish I had it to spend on something else.

I’ll start with that.

And in September, when my allowance envelope is replenished, I’ll try to intentionally choose again how I will use my money to buy happiness.

I think it must be possible.

I think this will be good.

What do you think? Do you have any fun ideas for how I could use $100 to buy myself a month’s worth of happiness?

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  1. daniel says:

    I want to say “spend it on your kids” but I don’t know them so I don’t know what would work. Is there an amusement park in the area you can take them to after school?
    daniel’s most recent post: An Ode To Rick

    • Miss Britt says:

      There is, actually. But, remembering that my kids lived next to Disney World for five years, I’m not sure they really appreciate the wow factor of amusement parks. I mean, they LIKE them, but I don’t think they get that it’s a big deal, if that makes sense.

      • daniel says:

        I forgot about that. That’s where knowing your kids comes in. Something unexpected, out of the ordinary, something they will remember the following month. Not a box of donuts for breakfast (which is fun) but something you don’t normally do.
        daniel’s most recent post: An Ode To Rick

  2. Lisa says:

    That’s a hard one and I can’t think of any one thing that would get me though a whole month. That seems somehow wrong.

    I do know a new pair of running shoes makes me happy because I know what they mean for me. I also know they would mean just about the opposite for you! But along that line, a month of yoga classes would probably mean to you what my shoes mean to me.

    If you want to invest it in your relationships, though, I’d split it 4 ways and do something each week – one week a date with just Emma, the next week with Devin, then Jared, and then a girls night with a girlfriend. They would have to be smaller dates, but you’re pretty creative about making $20 stretch. That way you have something to look forward to each week and you’re not counting on that One Big Thing to carry you through a whole month. That seems like it attaches a lot of pressure to picking the exact right thing so that you’re not disappointed for a whole month until the next thing.
    Lisa’s most recent post: This Isn’t Pink Floyd’s Wall

    • Miss Britt says:

      I want to try and step away a little bit from the “making it stretch” mind frame and remember that “there’s more where that came from”!

      And can you believe a month of yoga costs more than $100? Bastages.

  3. Cissa Fireheart says:

    You could buy a tent and use it to go camping every weekend with subsequent weekly allowances. I had planned on using $100 to do just that last week…until my tires needed replacing. But since you’ve done the RV thing, that might not be your cup of tea. I’m just saying I know if I had an extra $100, that’s what I would do :D

  4. Hockeymandad says:

    I think you need to spend the money on experiences or items that will create memories. There is nothing you can buy to create a month’s worth of happiness, and the experience will only last a day or two depending on the experience but you will get great memories and bonding time that are priceless to our spirits. However, there are other ways to invest in activities that will generate enjoyment for years to come.

    Something I have really gotten into in the past year are board games. I’m talking about “modern” board games and not the old Monopoly and Clue and what not. The games I have now immerse the players into a theme and have defined end points without eliminating players as the “classics” tend to do. No marathons of dice rolling that can take days to resolve, the longest games I have will end after about 90 minutes, but most go 30-60 minutes. The games run anywhere from $20 up to $60 and provide some great family time in our house and with friends. Everyone is engaged, interacting with each other, and always using their brains. I’d be happy to send you a sample list of some good starters to try out if interested.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Board games – what a great idea! We LOVE playing games as a family, and we’re kind of getting sick of the handful we have.

      I’d love your recommendations. :-)

  5. Naomi says:

    Oh babe, I have so so many ways you could spend that $93 for long-lasting happiness, via the step up you’d give others.

    The possibilities are endless.

    Glad your mind is on this track.
    Naomi’s most recent post: Vincent Low and the Beauty of Tea

  6. Nanna says:

    Hmmmmmmm. I know one thing Emma would love,, and that would be giving $1 bills to twenty different people she saw who were homeless or needed it. How cool would that be?

  7. You could buy a nice, big bottle of Basil Hayden and ship it to my office !
    Father Muskrat’s most recent post: road trips to florida and alabama on crappy tires* will kill you

  8. Sharon says:

    GO to the Kiva website and invest in 4 projects. Wait for them to be repaid and loan out the money again and again. You can make this a family project. Your kids might like picking out the projects to support.
    Sharon’s most recent post: Family Fun 1920′s Style

  9. In the spirit of back-to-school, you could buy school supplies for one entire class of 25 kids (yes, $4 each will get them a ton of stuff if they are the K-3 crowd). Or a class party :).
    Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce’s most recent post: How To Begin To Let Things Go

    • Miss Britt says:

      They do school supplies weird in PA. You actually rarely have individual supply lists. BUT – I could buy them for a class. I bet the teacher could give me ideas, and my kids could come with. Good idea!

  10. Jennie says:

    Buy some plants for the garden – either vegetable seedlings, or seeds. Buy some bubble-bath to relax in, once finished.

  11. Mike says:

    For my part, 100$ can fill my motorcycle gas tank five times and provide a cup of coffee at my local coffee shop a few times. The action of leaving my house and hitting the open road for an anticipated meet with like minded friends, truly brings happiness within my life.


    • Miss Britt says:

      My husband used to have a motorcycle, and I’m pretty sure he felt the same way about it. He LOVED that thing. I can’t think of any hobby I’ve ever had that I loved that much consistently.

      Maybe I have a short attention span. ;-)

  12. Kathy in Chicago says:

    I teach HS, so when students are selling cookie dough (or something else), I hand them a $20 & say “get me something good”. Their faces beam with the fact that THEY get to pick out something for me.

    If it’s cookie dough, they get to pick out the type of cookie dough, bake it, & bring it into class for us to share. They enjoy the responsibility of baking the cookies, & sharing them with their classmates (WOW! She trusts me to cook for the class!). Suddenly everyone is saying “thanks for the cookies – you are awesome!”. It makes the students, especially the introverts, happy that they are doing something nice for their classmates.

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