How Money Can Buy You Happiness – Spend It On Other People

Money and happiness have been intertwined in a seemingly endless battle of whether they can co-exist. Not surprisingly, considerable research has focused on whether making and spending money can positively impact our emotional well-being.

Not surprisingly, social scientists have expanded their scope of interest and have started to explore whether how we spend our money is equally, if not more important, than how much we have. Recently, an emerging body of research has highlighted how spending money on other people increases our own levels of happiness.

Another study just published in the Journal of Positive Psychology has offered continued support for this relationship. In this experiment, participants were asked to sort a bowl of paper clips into two different groups. In one case, the participants were told upfront that they would receive a ‘wage’ for their efforts. In the other, people just received the money as an unexpected windfall following their participation.

After receiving the money, participants were given one of two sets of additional instructions. One group was told that they had to spend the money on themselves. Other participants were prompted to spend their newfound money on someone else.

The key question of interest to the experimenters was whether the well-being of the ‘prosocial spenders’ would increase when compared to the self-oriented group.

Once again, the results supported the positive benefits of prosocial spending. People in the prosocial condition were significantly happier than their self-oriented counterparts when their mood ratings at the end of the day were compared with those obtained before their participation in the experiment.

What was especially interesting about these findings was that this positive relationship was maintained, whether or not the monies were viewed as a wage or windfall.


The pursuit of happiness is one of our most important and consuming endeavours. In many cases, many of us misattribute the role of money when considering ways to enhance our well-being. However, evidence continues to suggest that how we spend our money is more important than how much we have.

If you are feeling down and want to lift your spirits, think about buying someone a cup of coffee or invite a colleague out for snacks after work. These small gestures can lead to significant enhancements in our mood as well as the mood of those around us.