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109 of 111 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 16 months ago by Mother of Two

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28 of 34 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 17 months ago by A. Phaire


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109 of 111 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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34 of 35 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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28 of 34 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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6 of 7 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you want some guidance on spending, read this book, June 3, 2014
This review is from: Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending (Paperback)
This is a hilarious book with so many good lessons (and reminders) about how to spend money.

Here are a few of my favorite clips:
--Taking a job that requires an hour-long commute each way has a negative effect on happiness similar in magnitude to not having a job at all.

--There is a danger to time-saving products. Their widespread availability may spur us to buy things, from two-in-one shampoo to the McSalad Shaker, that are designed to shave minutes off activities we might otherwise enjoy, like taking hot showers and eating fresh food.

--People who feel pressed for time have difficulty staying in the moment.

--People who feel they have plenty of free time are more likely to exercise, do volunteer work, and participate in other activities that are linked to increased happiness.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a chore..., September 16, 2013
This book was a chore to read. I am an incredibly fast reader and this book took me weeks to get through. I found the writing style to be incredibly obnoxious. The colloquial, chatty, buddy-buddy style of writing is occasionally okay and bearable, but this was an epic fail. That alone was enough to turn me off the book, but I also found it to be poorly organized. There were five main chapters, and there were divided into subheadings with a case study and typically research to reinforce the message. There was just too much in every chapter and it started to feel very repetitive. There were so many studies that it felt overwhelming. I also started to feel as though a study could be found to back up any point they wanted to make. The overall themes were generally good, but I think the ways in which people gain the most happiness from spending money is intensely personal.

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

Maybe for some people it is a great decision to spend $200k on a space trip. I know that would not be a good use of my $200k. I can unequivocally state that I find it much more important to live in a house that for many others would likely be deemed as over the top and beyond the bare necessity of what you need in your house to be happy. I also know for my husband, driving a luxury car on his long commute makes all the difference in the world. That said, I think there were some good takeaways, and that there ultimately needs to be some tweaking to fit your lifestyle. We do not spend money solely to make ourselves happy. We spend money to invest, to have security, etc. What I mostly gained from the book is to reign in my expectations of the happiness certain things will bring me and to fully appreciate other smaller things, which might otherwise fall by the wayside. I think we also have to examine the idea of "happiness," but that is another topic entirely.

Ultimately, this book had some good ideas, but it would have tremendously benefitted from a more straightforward writing style and clearer organization. The main tenets also should have been reduced to a more digestible form.
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth checking out from the library, October 10, 2014
By 
Piaw Na (Silicon Valley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending (Paperback)
I wanted to like Happy Money. As Meng once said to me, "Those who say that money can't buy happiness don't know where to shop." And indeed, the premise of the book is sound: there are many things that most people do with their money that buys a lot of frustration instead of happiness, and they're well documented in literature:

Buying a bigger house doesn't buy you happiness, but buying a shorter commute (one you can walk to or bike to) does.
Buying experiences like great vacations is far better than buying the latest Apple/Android/Lenovo product. You get used to your faster computer quickly, but you'll always remember the great experiences you had on your vacation.
Whenever possible trade money for time, so that you can have more time for yourself. This is hard because if you're paid more, you value your free time even more, so it's difficult to buy enough free time. House-cleaning services and yard work services are examples of such valuable money/time trade-offs.
Spending money on other people is better than spending money on yourself.
There. I've probably given you the gist of the book. My wife asked me if I learned anything new in the book that I didn't already know from reading other happiness studies.

The book claims that interacting with children is the highlight of many people's days. This contradicts many other studies I've read where interacting with their children usually leaves parents unhappy. In fact, most studies I've read indicate that having children is a surefire way to destroy your happiness.
The book claims that paying for something first and then enjoying it later gives you the feeling that what you're enjoying is "free", which is nice. I personally find myself skeptical of this experience.
Apparently, even bad vacations are better expenditures than buying a bigger house. But there are no studies on how small a house you can have before having a bigger house makes you happier just because you're not hitting something every time you turn around.
The book is extremely short. If you're not careful you'll blow through it in a few hours. I do recommend the content in the book if you've not been exposed to it before, but I'd hesitate to spend full price on the book: check it out from the library instead.

Recommended.
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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
By 
Book Fanatic (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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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Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending
Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn (Paperback - May 20, 2014)
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