Sometimes Money Can Buy Happiness (or at least peace of mind)

As we ate dinner out Friday night, my husband asked if I've been saving any money, something that has always been a sore subject. When he asks, I generally feel as though he's being hypercritical of me (though the rational part of me knows that he isn't), and my hackles go up. I haven't told him yet about my latest efforts because I wanted to build up some momentum. So, in response to his question, my blood pressure shot up, I felt my face flush, and I answered him with a clearly defensive, "Yes."

Thankfully, he left the subject alone at that point. I really want to surprise him in a few months with a decent sum of money. I've let him down in this arena many times before, and it's the one point of contention in our relationship. We have many dovetailing interests, we read many of the same books, we even see eye to eye in our dog parenting strategies. Money continues to be the one problem. My proving, once and for all, that I am capable and committed to saving for our retirement together will, I believe, heal that wound.

Maybe money really can buy happiness.

Clearly, material goods themselves don't bring true happiness - just a few brief moments of high when that sale rings through and you are made the proud owner of a shiny new X. Having money, though, can bring happiness in the form of financial security to someone who knows the stresses of living paycheck to paycheck. Alleviating those stresses, to me at least, would be enormously liberating.

Sometimes just making the right economic choice for you or your family can be satisfying, as well. Sometimes this involves spending or forgoing money. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

When Forgoing Money Makes Sense

Another married couple with whom we are friends recently had to make one of these tough decisions. Raise their small kids on a single income and a tight budget so Mom could stay home with them, or send Mom back to work and be more flush? To them, the benefit of having one parent at home fulltime to care for the home and family was worth much more than the spending/saving power that would come from a second paycheck. They made the decision that was right for them.

Similarly, sometimes rejecting a promotion or changing to career that pays less is best. Take my dad, for example. When the company he worked for decided in the late '80's to shut down their U.S. base of oeprations, for which my dad was the manager, the offered him the opportunity to go run their main plant in Cornwall, Ontario. This would not have required the family to move, though it would have lengthened his commute. He had already spent years of working 12 - 16 hour days, frequently spending weekends at the office, and traveling so extensively that he sometimes missed holidays and family events. Rather than accept the transfer, he decided that it was time for a change and became a teacher. Less pay, but better retirement and benefits for our family. Also, there were no long hours, no weekends or holidays, and infinitely less stress. He's never for a moment looked back or expressed any regret with the decision. Again, he made the best choice for himself and for the family.

Sometimes Spending Just Feels so Satisfying

As a life long owner and adorer of "pound puppies," writing a large check to buy a purebred dog just felt a little bit wrong initially. While I won't say that Jack is better than any of the shelter dogs I've had, his particular brand of different is so endearing that I've never since felt like I made a mistake. It also introduced us to a particular group of friends whom are much cherished. This kept us in the loop, so to speak, so we knew when, at 1 1/2 years old, his littermate Diane was given up by her owners. She immediately came to live with us, so buying Jack was sort of like a BOGO (buy one, get one) deal. Jack does well enough in his sport that we may be able to breed him down the road. I have no interest in collecting stud fees, rather I want one of his puppies in the hopes that I can keep his sweet personality with me always. That one check written three years ago may well have bought me a lifetime of companionship and unconditional love. Yeah, it was well worth the money.

Education is another example where, for me, a bit of a financial outlay can bring immense satisfaction. As a 32 year old woman getting ready to go back to school, I feel relieved. I opted not to finish my degree as a traditional student years ago due to a big case of not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now, eleven years later, I'm just deciding the direction in which I want to go. I can't wait to write that tuition check. After yars of feeling like a quitter, I'm doing something about it. Money (and a little hard work) will buy me a better education, which will allow me to better follow my desired career path. I believe that this will bring me a great deal of satisfaction for many years to come.

Update on the Grocery Front

I just wanted to share how my grocery shopping experience went yesterday.

Fabulous!

Husband went with me as my official cart pusher, and he always rushes me around. As a result, I quite often spend more because I just toss things into the cart without paying a lot of attention. Now, my biweekly budget for groceries, pet stuff, and toiletries is $250. Yesterday, for a full week's worth of provisions I spent a whopping.... DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!

...$73!

No circulars, no coupons, no muss, no fuss (unless you count the, "Are we done yet?"s that continuously came from the Hubster)! Just a planned menu and and a list. It really can be done!

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