How to buy happiness

Spending money on others benefits community, self

Abbie Reetz

Commentary by Abbie Reetz, Managing Editor
Editorial by Abbie Reetz, Managing Editor

In one of my classes last week, we spent a day talking about things you can do to  make yourself happier and relieve stress.
As part of this particular lecture, we watched a TED Talk about how money can buy you happiness. The presentation was given by Michael Norton, associate professor of Business Administration at Harvard.
In his talk, Norton discusses a study he helped conduct regarding how spending money affects happiness. Random people were asked to rate their level of happiness,  then given a small amount of money and given a deadline to spend it by.
Some people were told to spend the money on themselves, and others were told to spend it on someone else.
After the deadline had passed, researchers contacted the subjects and asked them how they spent their money and to rank how happy they were again.
The individuals who had been directed to spend the money on themselves had little to no change in happiness. Those who were told to spend it on someone else consistently ranked their happiness higher than it had been earlier in the day.
Norton points out it isn’t how much money you have or what you spend it on that matters – it’s who you spend it on that counts instead.
In one of his examples, he compared how college students spent the money they were given on themselves and others.
In both groups, there were people who bought coffee from Starbucks. Even though they spent the same amount for the same exact thing, those who bought the coffee for someone else were happier after their purchase.
As college students, most of us don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on ourselves, let alone on anyone else. Luckily, there are ad-sponsored websites that donate for you with just the click of a button. has options to donate to help fight hunger and poverty, fund mammograms for women who can’t afford them, donate to animal shelters, help homeless veterans, help children with autism, support diabetes research, give books to children and protect the rainforest.
It costs nothing to help. All you have to do is click a button, and the advertisers donate on your behalf. It’s a great way to help good causes and also raise your own happiness level.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s easy to get caught up in your own life and forget there are others who need help. I struggle to balance work, school and my social life while trying to find a full-time job for after I graduate in December.
To put it simply, I am beyond stressed, and it’s easy for me to forget that, while this stress is only temporary, there are others out there who have real problems that won’t go away without the help of others.
There are many websites and apps available that allow you to contribute to global good without having to break the bank – and Free Rice allow are just two of the many websites that allow you to donate just by clicking buttons or playing games.
Websites like KickStarter and IndieGoGo allow you to find causes you care about and donate whatever you can afford to give. Causes that use these websites are given a specific length of time to reach their funding goal. If they don’t reach their goal, the often don’t get funded. Many offer incentives for donating different amounts of money.
By donating to a good cause or even just surprising a friend by paying for their coffee, you can help out others and make yourself happier, and, we all know, too much happiness is never a bad thing.

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