Inner Beauty

How to Buy Happiness without Breaking the Bank


Money can’t buy you love (thank the Beatles for that life lesson), but little indulgences can pay big dividends when it comes to happiness, as long as you’re spending smartly. In other words: Treat yourself! Here’s how to buy happiness inexpensively, according to researchers:

Cultivate gratitude.

No matter what you choose to spend on, don’t take those things for granted. We have a tendency to get used to what we’ve got, so slowing down and taking stock helps us keep our material possessions feeling novel.

Treat yourself to experiences.

Take that vacation, scoop up movie tickets, get a massage. The anticipation and, later, the memory provide a long-lasting mood-booster.

Give to others.

It offers an immediate and sustained jolt of happiness. You don’t have to go broke being generous, either. What matters more than the amount is whether you see your contribution making a difference.

Spend money to free up time.

From a happiness standpoint, it’s worth it to pay to outsource unpleasant activities—say, using a grocery delivery service—if you’d use that time doing something to recharge your batteries instead.

Get little gifts for yourself.

With this in mind, we asked the Bare Necessities staff what gifts for yourself give them a joyful jolt for not a lot of dough—less than $50, in fact. Feel free to borrow these ideas for simple pleasures and pick-me-ups to make your day that much cheerier:

$0.89 – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
“Two great tastes that taste great together.” —Cory S., digital production artist

$0.99 – a ringtone
“The first one I ever bought was an instrumental version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” It’s my favorite part of the song from my favorite musician. Best spare change I ever spent.” —David W., VP of e-commerce

$5 – mini beauty products
“You get to try out something new before committing to a full-size premium product—and price.” —Stephanie J., web designer

$10 – a manicure
“That hour of peace, quiet and pampering is priceless, and the feeling lasts the better part of a week.” —Erin C., marketing manager, e-commerce

$13.44 – a good book
“The last novel I read was Becoming Marie AntoinetteI love historical fiction. You’re instantly transported to a different world, and you forget everything around you. Time seems to suspend itself.” —Leah H., e-commerce coordinator

$14.99 – Domaine Fontanyl Rose de Provence 2014
“A lovely, dry rosé to share with my husband on a warm Friday evening is always a treat. I’ve found you can’t go wrong with this one from Provence.” —Anne M., director of marketing

$15 – ice cream night
“Seeing my kids do the happy dance before we go is priceless. My daughter and I like black raspberry on a sugar cone with rainbow sprinkles. My son loves a good old-fashioned chocolate sundae, and my hubby usually goes for the banana split. We all have to help him finish it.” —Megan C., product merchandising manager

$18 – a Lokai bracelet
“It’s made up of a black bead that holds mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, and a white bead containing water from Mount Everest. So whether you’re feeling low as dirt or on top of the world, it’s a reminder to stay balanced. Plus 10 percent of net profits go to great charities.” —Kathleen A., social media coordinator

$20 – a new lipstick
“One of my resolutions was to wear more lipstick, and it honestly changed my life. It’s become my armor, my signature. I’ve amassed over 100 lipsticks and lip glosses. When I’m wearing lipstick, I feel like I can face anything.” —Shaneek A., marketing project coordinator

$21 – a monthly gym membership
“I’m by no stretch of the imagination a gym-goer, so every time I finish a workout, I’m ridiculously proud of myself. It’s a twice-a-week ego boost now, and an investment in my health for the future.” —Brooke G., copywriter

$34 – a day at the beach
“Parking: $12. Day pass: $9. Starbucks Trenta iced coffee: $3.45. Lunch: $10. There’s even a little money to spare for a cocktail before heading home!” —Donna L., executive assistant

$46 – a hot date night bra
“I love the adjustable twist front on OnGossamer’s Mesh Bump It Up bra for even more cleavage. It gives amazing shaping and lift.” —Jana F., associate buyer

$49.99 – a HomeGoods lantern
“Anytime I buy something major for the house for under $50, it makes me happy! I love oversized lanterns right now. I just got a really big wooden one with metal accents—makes me feel like I’m in Miami!” —Heather V., assistant buyer

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Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.
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