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Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending Hardcover – May 14, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"If you think money doesn't buy happiness, then you're just not spending it right. In this lively and engaging book, Dunn and Norton use the latest scientific research to show how you can get a bigger emotional bang for your hard-earned bucks. HAPPY MONEY isn't a purchase; it's an investment—and a shrewd one at that." (Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness)

“No one understands how to get more happiness out of our money better than Liz Dunn and Mike Norton. Their research is not only on the cutting edge — it changes where the edge is. Like stand-up comedians of science, Dunn and Norton take ordinary observations that everybody experiences and craftily distill them with a clarity that makes us laugh, and then makes us think. They have done us a great service by sharing their knowledge with us in the easy-to-apply principles they present in this book.” (Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational)

“How to spend smarter? Read this book!—a rare combination of informed science writing, rollicking good fun, and practical pointers for a more flourishing and compassionate life.” (David G. Myers, author, The Pursuit of Happiness)

"Many books have been written to tell you how to make money, save money, and invest money. Now there's a book that can tell you how to spend it. Wisely." (Chip Heath, co-author of Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work)

" ...wise and entertaining... moves beyond whether money makes you happy to how and what spending and lifestyle choices affect your well-being. Dunn and Norton provide practical and well-evidenced insights for all of us, from individuals, to communties, to governments." (David Halpern, Behavioural Insight Team, No10, and author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations.)

"University of British Columbia psychology professor Dunn and Harvard Business School marketing professor Norton, friends from graduate school, offer a witty, lively guide to changing the philosophy behind spending so that it brings you true joy.... Readers cannot help but be charmed by this funny, warm guide to creating the good life from scratch." (Publishers Weekly)

"This small, snappily written book is focused on five points, all directed at enabling people to get more bang for their bucks... Buy [this] book, read [it], take the advice [it] offer[s] to heart, and you’ll be a happier person." (Barry Schwartz Los Angeles Review of Books)

“Each of Dunn and Norton's five principles offers a scientifically validated means of increasing happiness. Like asking a surgical expert to perform your heart transplant, following their principles might be better than just winging it. And luckily, spending money is a lot easier and much less messy than major surgery.” (Guy Kawasaki LinkedIn.com)

"Packed with tips...people will come away from this book believing it was money well spent" (The Economist)

“Dunn and Norton strive to show how to spend money in less typical but more pleasing ways. They offer five principles you can use to buy happiness…. I love the five principles of happy money because they aren’t about getting more money but getting more out of the money you have.” (Michelle Singletary The Washington Post)

“[Happy Money] is filled with surprising, counterintuitive findings that also produce a spark of recognition…. Dunn and Norton have outlined a series of valuable and instructive findings, demonstrating that people tend to overlook the effects of attention and adaptation, and that they would do better if they were to make expenditure decisions with those effects in mind.” (New Republic)

"[S]hort and breezy but research-heavy" (New York Times)

About the Author

Elizabeth Dunn is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. At age twenty-six, she was featured as one of the “rising stars” across all of academia by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Michael Norton is an associate professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School. His research has twice been featured in The New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas issue. In 2012, he was selected for Wired magazine’s Smart List as one of “50 People Who Will Change the World.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451665067
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451665062
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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).
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