Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Happiness Day 6: Purchase Power

"Buy Some Happiness" is probably my favorite chapter title in THE HAPPINESS PROJECT. It's blunt, straightforward, and unexpected (not because we don't try this all the time, but because it's so un-PC to admit it). I love that Gretchen is willing to explore the extent to which we can use currency to get us where we want to go.

It made me think of how most of us have picked up some odd little indicators that make us think, "That's what you have when you're rich." I remember one day, back when I worked for the New York Times bestselling author: We were in her kitchen making breakfast and talking about some new political development when I noticed this set of jars on her counter. They were clear, and filled with nuts: cashews, pecans, almonds. I love nuts. I'd never seen them in such profusion in one person's house. They were decorative AND edible! It amazed me to see how, as we chatted away, she'd just reach over, grab a jar, and pull out an handful. I wasn't poor at the time--I was four years out of law school--but I couldn't imagine that kind of wealth.

You can bet that the minute Steve and I got back from our honeymoon, I got a set of those little Oggi Canisters and made a little nut collection of my own. It still makes me happy.

My dad tells a similar story about seeing a wealthy aunt eat sliced grapefruit from a can when he was a boy. All his life, even though intellectually he knows better, canned grapefruit has represented wealth and even decadence to him. Strange stuff, this.

What if we can leverage these little proclivities for good? What if we can buy happiness? Last night when I couldn't sleep, I considered what other things buy me a little jolt of joy by providing that "I feel rich!" feeling: A full tank of gas in the car is strangely exciting to me (it's like, "I could go ANYWHERE!"). As is any trip to the bookstore where I emerge with a bag full of new ideas between two covers. I love having enough of the basics: underwear, soap, etc. (having extra toothbrushes on hand makes me feel more like a successful adult than my law degree ever has). And prompted by the other day's magazine exploration, I sent in a couple of new subscriptions. Magazines make me feel rich.

I'll be at an all-day conference today, so won't be doing much shopping. But I want to keep thinking about this question of how we can buy some happiness. I think it's worthwhile.

How about you: What makes you feel rich? Do you think happiness can be bought?


Grits said...

Spending $10 on treats at The Fresh Market (fancy cheese, unique beer or some kind of chocolate) makes me feel rich and happy!

Stephanie Kartalopoulos said...

Things that I can buy that make me feel happy and make me feel like my bank account MUST be in a healthy enough place (that used to--in former lives, including when I worked for David and Marco--be no brainers but are now "special purchases"):

a wedge of cheese (there is little *good* cheese available here, and it is overpriced; there is no whole foods market or trader joe's unless I drive 2 hours away, and even that is often out of my price range)

seeing my 6 bottle wine rack full of wine (even if it's $5 bottles...just seeing it FULL...instead of symmetrically arranged with just 3 bottles...)

flowers in my vase

a gallon of the GOOD ice cream in my freezer (or, conversely, 2 pints of Ben & Jerry's)

fresh candles all over my apartment (and if I want to get REALLY indulgent about it, soy wax candles!)

...and, now living in the midwest and having a car, I'm with you on having a full tank of gas. I often feel like it is a luxury, with my current financial state, to have more than half a tank of gas in my car. But to have it all the way full--woah nelly! That's just insane. I could drive just more than half way to Nashville (in the summer, with the air conditioning at full blast...) on a full tank of gas. And I have a friend there who makes me happy and makes me feel like I am with "family" just when I get to spend time with her...

Sarakastic said...

To me it's the height of luxury when a car has that faux wood grain around the radio (mine car is just gray sadly) and sea salt.

Swishy said...

I love that picture you used! I love any kind of little office product, and of course a brand-new mascara or eyeliner or something (even a cheapie one!) I totally buy (ha, no pun intended) that theory.

Julia said...

Anything that is a step above "necessity," like good chocolate instead of Hershey's, name brand chicken stock instead of store brand chicken broth, a cute plaid lunch bag instead of a plastic grocery bag, and even brightly colored paper clips instead of the utilitarian metal ones.

heidikins said...

I buy fancy perfume. I justify spending $90 a bottle on Dolce & Gabbana and feel fancy and important every time I spritz it on.

It makes me happy.

(It should be noted, when someone says "what are you wearing" and I can reply with "Dolce & Gabbana" I get a rush. Like heroine.)

kim said...

I definitely feel indulgent buying magazine subscriptions. I went on line last month and bought 4. For the pleasure they give me, they're inexpensive. I also like buying good: wine, olive oil, prosciutto, chocolate, cheese.