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Can You Buy Happiness?|Understanding Money Part 2

This post is the second of a five-part series about money- Can you buy happiness? To change our lifestyle, we needed to change our entire relationship with money. We’ve collaborated with our financial advisor, Matthew Lekushoff, to share information, tips, advice, and our own experiences with spending, saving, and investing our money. All these elements led to a money management plan that allowed us to live and work anywhere in the world.


It all depends on how you choose to spend it and whether you’ve taken the time to set meaningful goals.

When we met our financial advisor, Matthew Lekushoff, we examined how we had been spending our money and how we viewed success.

I was married to my job, consumed by thoughts of climbing the corporate ladder. Working in corporate marketing, I was anxious and diligent to work hard and get promoted to the next role, which I thought would bring me closer to success.

But more money didn’t mean increased happiness at all.

In fact, it made life too complicated. A promotion meant more responsibility and less time to do the kind of work and projects I loved. My days were taken up by pleasing presidents and vice presidents, managing their expectations, abiding by company politics, and worse, laying off staff to meet profit targets.

How we spent our money

Troy and I often used our money to escape from this lifestyle, doing things like going out for dinner to wash off the stress from the week. A good Sunday afternoon was an unplanned, boredom-inspired shopping trip to the mall, where we’d find ourselves in Best Buy, purchasing gadgets that miraculously met a need in our lives for a short period. The same went for shoes, clothing, and kitchen gadgets. We loved that blender, that plasma screen TV, that super cleaning gizmo until a new novelty took its place. The replaced device would be carried to the basement for a new dust-covered life. Does this sound familiar?

We were stuck in a hamster wheel—new items provided an escape from the stress and boredom, but once their novelty wore off, we bought more to satisfy ourselves.

buy happinessTroy and I weren’t spending our money to achieve our goals, we were spending it because it was available.

Matthew did research on this topic and  we learned that as a species, we’re bad at knowing what makes us happy. Instead, we make choices based on what we think will make us happy. Since we’re ill-equipped for a modern world that depends on money and investing it wisely, we end up acting on instinct.

Matthew helped us to understand this concept buy happiness through using research by Martin Seligman. Seligman writes that a combination of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement (PERMA) creates the foundation for happiness.

It turns out…we don’t need more money for more stuff! We as humans are trapped on a hedonic treadmill that leaves us largely at the same level of happiness, regardless of how much money we have.

Do you want to know the best way to buy happiness?

Investing in experiences, activities, and people—not things—is ABSOLUTELY a more productive way to buy happiness.

We wholeheartedly agree with Seligman’s PERMA model. Through travel and enjoying the outdoors, Troy and I discovered we  needed engagement, meaning, and accomplishment most. We were captivated by these experiences, from the first time we climbed a mountain, learned how to kayak, or walked through a fruit market in Asia. We surrendered to the experience, which allowed us to try things we had never done before.

The more we traveled, the more we appreciated what was good in the world, and what wasn’t. Westerners like us, come from privileged backgrounds and are in a position to give time, attention, and money. Small actions can make significant impacts, such as, buying local products when traveling, volunteering our time and skills  to a reputable community project, or understanding a new culture by staying in a homestay- at a local family home. Not only can we contribute to the lives of others, but also those small actions create lasting meaning within ourselves. It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling.


What are your experiences with money and happiness? Please share in the comments section. We’d love to hear about them.

Understanding Money Part 3: Plan Your Future Using Your Values  We talk about values and how they play a major role in your future.

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About the Author Dorene

Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at

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