A 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.
“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.
- 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.
- 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?