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86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected, But I Like It.
The title, "Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending", gave me the impression that this was another book about clipping coupons and recycling cereal boxes. Cynically, I opened it up.

The first sentence of the prologue shattered that preconception immediately. This book aims squarely for the "money can't buy happiness" idiom, with the idea that it can...if...
Published 11 months ago by Mother of Two

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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Happy Money Review
I had mixed feelings about 'Happy Money' after finishing it. First of all its a really easy read; I think almost anyone could read it and follow the logic. Despite it easy readability, I was a bit underwhelmed by the writing style. It reads more like a length college research paper, rather than a how-to guide book. Although, given that both the authors are college...
Published 12 months ago by A. Phaire


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86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected, But I Like It., September 6, 2013
The title, "Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending", gave me the impression that this was another book about clipping coupons and recycling cereal boxes. Cynically, I opened it up.

The first sentence of the prologue shattered that preconception immediately. This book aims squarely for the "money can't buy happiness" idiom, with the idea that it can...if utilized properly.

Not in the usual ways, either. It's not necessarily how much you spend, or saving tons of cash for a rainy day so you feel more secure about the future.

There are five principles that can lead to monetary happiness:

1. Buy Experiences
2. Make it a Treat
3. Buy Time
4. Pay Now, Consume Later
5. Invest in Others

"Buy Experiences" essentially means to spend money on memorable experiences instead of expensive toys, because you are able to relate to those experiences on an emotional level for much longer that with objects.

I had actually utilized this concept myself recently. I had come into a small inheritance, and instead of paying down bills like we had originally planned, we splurged on our first real family vacation to the beach. My son still talks about going back, and thoughts of that time together still spark warm feelings.

"Make It A Treat" focuses on the concept of overconsumption creating a weakening of the enjoyment factor. If you have something every day, even if it's something you love, it becomes routine rather than fully enjoyable.

I discovered this when for budgeting reasons, I stopped buying coffee house specialty drinks and made coffee at home. Once in a while I'd get a gift card or decide to splurge, and those moments took me back to the first time I'd tasted one, and it was always an amazing sensation. They explain why that is in detail, and it's fascinating. I plan to apply this to other aspects of my life, now that I'm aware of it.

"Buy Time": The idea that you make life decisions that allow you to have more free time. I'm a busy mom, so Multitask is my middle name. Suggestions include outsourcing unnecessary tasks, like housecleaning. Much as I'd love to do that, it's not possible. But I do have an example of my own.

We instituted "Takeout Wednesdays", where my husband is responsible for bringing home dinner every Wednesday. That gives me free time I can plan on, and lets me get things done AND get down time.

"Pay Now, Consume Later" was a fascinating concept. In society today, we're more apt to do the reverse, thanks to credit cards. Essentially, it's sort of like half the fun of a roadtrip is getting there. When consummation is delayed, from something as simple as eating candy to attending an event, the enjoyment is increased. When something's already paid for, if enough time passes, it seems "free" when it's actually consumed.

I've personally seen this in action when I backorder things online, like books, video games and DVDs. It's almost like a prize coming in the mail, because the actual payment process is dim in my memory. I've also stashed candy away for until the kids are asleep, and it always tastes even better then. (Don't judge me. (.:)

Last concept: Invest In Others. This hits on how donating or spending money on others feels better than buying things for yourself. I totally got with this chapter, because I deal with that scenario all the time.

An example: Recently, I had a friend give me two free product coupons for a very expensive brand of bread. I was picking mine out, and a lady next to me mentioned she loved it, but it was too expensive. I tapped her on the shoulder and gave her one of the coupons. The free item would have given me pleasure, but giving it away gave me a great feeling that still lingers.

Toys and goodies are great, but doing onto others is incredible.

This was an easy and fun read...I liked the authors' (Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton) writing style. It reminded me of sitting around with friends over coffee and chatting. I had never read anything like it, and really thought it was original.

I already embrace these principles on some level, but look forward to applying them to more of my life choices, and seeing my money make me happier. It'll have a permanent place on my bookshelf...and in my bathroom! (But that's another chapter.)

I received a complimentary copy from BzzAgent in exchange for my review.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's up to you to make it stick, June 15, 2013
So does "Happy Money" do what the exuberant book description claims?

Yes--but only if you actively implement the five principles it introduces.

Each chapter contains one principle, scientific research, anecdotes (some of which were very intriguing), and suggestions. The authors do a good job of explaining why each principle makes sense, and gives you some ideas on how to do it yourself.

And "Smart Money" is written in a conversational, mildly entertaining way. It reads like a fun magazine article, so it's easily digestible. But it's not just fluff; there are about 20 pages worth of notes in the back. However, it's also peppered with too many cheesy jokes for my taste, and the authors frequently refer to themselves, though not necessarily in an egotistical way. (Sometimes they share anecdotes from their own lives, hence the references to "Mike" and "Liz.")

But is the book revolutionary?

No. Most if not all of the principles are things you already know (e.g. giving to others makes you feel good). But the authors manage to explore each idea in depth, so you still end up learning more about it. And they give you feasible ideas on how to get things done (e.g. donate to donorschoose.org).

What I appreciated about the book was that it drew to light some things we take for granted, e.g. commute times. And it has actually made me rethink the way I choose to spend cash.

Following the principles in this book is worth a shot; it seems like they'll make you happier, though you won't be able to measure by how much.

I only wish the authors had put some kind of recap, preferably with bullet points, at the end of every chapter. Sometimes I would get so caught up in the stories and experiments that I would lose track of what advice I was supposed to glean from them. Direct suggestions, also with bullet points, would have been nice, too. Rather than being patronizing to the reader, such summaries would make things even clearer and reinforce the most important ideas.

Also, I recommend reading The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, which is a little more put together and includes summaries.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Happy Money Review, August 18, 2013
I had mixed feelings about 'Happy Money' after finishing it. First of all its a really easy read; I think almost anyone could read it and follow the logic. Despite it easy readability, I was a bit underwhelmed by the writing style. It reads more like a length college research paper, rather than a how-to guide book. Although, given that both the authors are college professors the writing style can't be a huge surprise. If I think back upon how many times I felt annoyed by all the alliteration and the repeated use of the same phrase I might not be so inclined to recommend this book to others.

With that said, I do think that there is value in the five spending principals that are outlined in the book (perhaps extensively so). The concepts are not altogether foreign, but some of them do engage you to take a second and think about whether or not you've been applying this principal in your own life. Before reading this book, I thought I might get some validation as to how effective my own spending habits are. In my own opinion, I do think that I am good at saving and managing money. I recently paid off the entirety of my student loan debt, which was about +/- $20k. The schedule of my loan payments were allotted to take up to 10 years, but I paid off the entire sum in about 3 years. My own thoughts about 'happy money' involve the reduction or elimination of debt. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't much discussion of this in the book. Dunn and Norton offer spending principals that are simple and straightforward; but perhaps do not address an underlying concern that most Americans contemplate daily; which is how do we 'manage' our money for our lifestyle (i.e. where do we save, reduce, spend, and invest our money). There is no need to dispute that buying an experience you'll enjoy, allowing yourself to savor the occasional treat, minimizing the time you spend on mundane daily tasks, paying up front for goods/ services, and investing in the people/programs you believe in will make you feel happy. What I really want to know is once I've supposedly spent all of this 'happy money' where does that leave my overall finances? I'm not sure if this question was fully answered in 'Happy Money'. Did I select the best mortgage rate? Did I produce any significant growth towards my retirement? Topics like mortgage rates and retirement assets are unexciting to begin with, but they are important to think about. I think a big part of feeling comfortable with how you spend your 'happy money' comes from knowing where your 'overall money' stands.

On a more promising note, I was intrigued to read about the many companies and charitable organizations around the world that are making a difference to better humanity. This supplied a good group of references to consider when working on Step 5, Invest in Others.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Change for Big Impact, June 5, 2013
By 
I first learned about Happy Money from the Wall Street Journal's Ask Ariely column. It was a quick, fun read because both authors used personal stories and humor to make the points memorable. Psychology research findings are boiled down to be accessible, clear, and applicable: The day after reading it I was able to apply some lessons from the book to increase the positive effect of gift cards we are using as incentives for a behavior change program in my office. Now I plan to review key sections to consider what shifts I could make personally.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wake Up Call for the Frugal, September 3, 2013
I was given "Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending" to review probably because of my interest in personal finance and investing books. I've been pretty satisfied with my investing and retirement savings over the years and very willing to share the knowledge and experience I've acquired with friends and family when asked. Well I have to confess I've never intentionally included happiness in the investing equation. This book offers some excellent principles in how to spend money. Some may seem like common sense, but often when we've gone through life looking for the "best buy" or "most value for the dollar," considering which spending choice will bring the most happiness is a new concept. Although based on scientific studies and surveys, this book is an easy read with many real life stories and examples. What kind of spending actually brings us happiness isn't necessarily the most extravagant, although it might be. "Happy Money" gives us valuable insights gathered from their research to guide our spending. For me personally, it has already changed the way I make my spending decisions. In addition to value, when appropriate I factor happiness, whether for myself or others, into the spending equation. If spending money interests you, I recommend you read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book: A fast read with many non-intuitive insights!, August 7, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I loved the book and would recommend it. Frankly I got it because Mike was my professor at business school and I must say he was one of the best. He was young, energetic and super insightful. His class was one of my favorites and definitely one of the most memorable. How can you forget the chicken contact lenses case!

I feel like most people I know don't make purchasing decisions based on happiness but instead focus on what others are doing and frequently are influenced by ads that tell them how purchases would make them happy. From personal experience I have noticed that most of the time, such behavior doesn't produce a desirable effect and certainly nothing long-lasting. Luckily for us, there is enough new psyc science research that can help us be better at our decision making. This book tells great story and summarizes such research.

I started to implement some of the advice in the book. For example, people frequently enjoy planning and thinking about upcoming vacations much more so than the vacations themselves. So why not spend more time planning and plan them farther in advance, so that you can savor them more!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Practical Ideas and Funny as a Bonus, July 13, 2013
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Book Fanatic (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
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The idea behind this book is great. Can you spend your money in ways that will increase your happiness? According to the authors of this book the answer is yes you can. Just because money does not usually buy happiness on average does not mean it cannot buy some happiness.

I find this book persuasive and intuitive. The authors give five principle of spending that will increase happiness supported by some research:

1) Buy Experiences not Things
2) Make it a Treat
3) Buy Time
4) Pay Now, Consume Later
5) Invest in Others

There is humor scattered throughout the book and the authors write very well. Some reviewer said it was stretched out. Nonsense. This is a small book in size and number of pages (157 pages of text), that can be read quickly. It's just right.

This book has Amazon's "Search Inside" feature which allows you to preview many pages of text and I recommend you check it out.

Recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quit Buying Responsibilities, Start Buying Memories, July 12, 2013
Surprisingly good!

I skipped this one when it came out a couple of months ago. Smarter spending? I assumed it was more of the same -- Don't spend more than you have, save for a rainy day, read Consumer Reports, blah blah blah. Sensible advice, but boring.

Instead of the same old, Happy Money has counter-intuitive advice such as to spend a windfall on a trip into outer space rather than invest in real estate. That's because Professors Dunn and Norton go beyond the usual exercise of figuring out how to get more money. They insist that we ask what we want to DO with our money. What is the purpose of having it? And their conclusion is that for most of us, experiences trump things. While we'll enjoy the new car for a few weeks, pretty soon it will just be the same old car. But a trip to Rome or to the Galapagos Islands or even into outer space on Virgin Galactic (maybe, someday) will provide us with pleasure in anticipation as well as memories for as long as we have a memory.

This rings true with me. If I try very hard, I might be able to recall every car I've owned, but I can remember vividly the trips I've taken. The two houses I've owned gave me more headaches than security and I'm now a happy renter.

Dunn and Norton have several other interesting theories and they illustrate them with academic studies and personal experiences. They also inject a lot of humor into their writing, and they don't go on too long -- no padding the book to make it more hefty. It's a streamlined 160 pages or so of text and reads quickly. It'll make you think about how you spend your money.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reminder that money used wisely can increase happiness, May 29, 2013
This book is an excellent reminder that "stuff" that you buy for yourself makes you less happy than buying things for other people or spending money on experineces. So buy this book for yourself, spend money on taking your family to the beach and invite your friends to dinner or buy them a glass of wine. The book is full of practical nuggets on how to maximize the happiness factor of the money you have to spend.
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50 of 74 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Narrow-Minded Unscientific Look at Spending, July 7, 2013
Spending $200,000 on a six minute trip into space is an example of spending 'happy money' if you believe this book. Yet paying $10 or $20 for pleasure reading is not even mentioned. According to the index, reading only appears on page 55: "People are rarely in an unpleasant mood while exercising, praying, reading or having sex (unless maybe they are trying all these activities at the same time)." Does this sentence sound glib? If so, you'll find glibness throughout the book.

As a scientist I can tell you that this book is anything but scientific. Many studies are cited that correlate happy people with the authors' ideas about spending happy money. Yet they miss the critical point that correlation is not the same as causation. That is, happy people may spend their money in certain ways but the reverse is not necessarily true. So, if you spend your money in those same ways it will not necessarily make you any happier.

The authors also underestimate the pride and joy that comes with ownership of quality merchandise and real estate. Having grown up in a small converted cottage, I can assure you that I am now very happy living in a large house. I also love my new car and I am much happier than when I was driving my 14 year old car although it ran perfectly well.

This book is yet another one-size-fits-all self-help manual of little or no value. The fact that it is dressed up as science borders on deceitful. Spend your money on a good novel instead.
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Happy Money
Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn (Paperback - June 7, 2013)
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