Get a Little Merrier in 2012

Money Spent Right Can Indeed Bring You Happiness

No one argues that money can’t buy happiness, but getting your finances in order would definitely lead you in the right direction towards a sunnier day. 2011 turned out to be another turbulent year, which had witnessed multiple crisis and disasters. Houses were not selling; people were not getting jobs; and the constant worry about money can’t make anyone happy. So shouldn’t we at least get a little break in the brand new 2012, especially when the forecast is still murky? This can be achieved with a few easy small money steps without breaking the bank.

Set up an emergency fund , if you haven’t done so already. A surprise finding from a University of Georgia study of 28,000 Americans: Having a rainy-day fund best predicts financial satisfaction, more so than being credit card debt-free or even owning a home! Experts have been preaching putting up at least three to six times of your monthly income; you may help build up the safety net quicker with some small “windfalls” such as your tax refund or medical flexible spending reimbursements. No matter how it’s done, you will sleep better knowing the money is there even if your roof leaks tomorrow.

Rid yourself of credit card debt , which is truly an evil monster. The thought of having to pay that 20% interest on top of what you owe will surely make you wince in pain and turn grumpy. And that’s not all – according to a study by Utah state University professor Jeff Dew, newlyweds who had built up a balance of as little as $1,000 were markedly less satisfied with their relationships than those who had none. It may not be practical to put up the cash to pay off the debt right away without causing hardship, so think small, establish a target and stick to it. Before long, you’ll see your debt shrink and perhaps treat your partner a little better.

Switch workplace , if it you don’t feel good there. Your job is where you spend most of waking hours; there is no worse feeling than having to dread going there in the morning, and counting minutes to get out. It could be the job being boring, or your co-worker being nasty. Either way, being depressed from 9 to 5 will just make you sick. Recent government’s job reports are indicating an up-tick in the labor market, and job site StarWire.com found that half of the applicants found a job within a week, while 75% of them got theirs within three. Make the move now and you may actually be able to come home with a smile.

Make full use of your vacation days . American workers are well known for being workaholic, and leave an average of 6.2 vacation days unused per year, according to on-line travel site Hotwire. In this tough economy where companies are forced to cut cost and improve productivity, employees tend to feel they must keep working extra hours to keep their jobs. But a stressed-out worker would cost two and a half times more in health care alone, not to mention the negative impact on his family life and the company’s productivity. So squeeze in every day you are entitled to. You don’t need to dole out big bucks and take an extravagant trip; a prolonged weekend in which you simply lounge around at home will do. After all, a well rested person is always a happier one.

Indulge yourself a little and often , which beats occasional splurges in creating greater happiness. That’s the result of numerous researches over the years covering a wide variety of everyday activities. You may try years to save up enough money to treat your family to a month-long expedition to the most exotic places in the world, but the excitement can only last so long. Instead, how about going out to dinner one weekend and the movies the next, or stopping by that neat boutique store on your way home to pick up a nice box of imported chocolate for your wife? Little things like these can truly make your life so much more joyous.

Be charitable and help others , which brings your happiness to a whole new level. What feels better than knowing that you’ve helped out someone in need? According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, people who donate to charity are 43% more likely to say they are very happy about their lives than those who don’t. Besides, you don’t always have to give money to help - volunteer your time and expertise. When you watch the young trees growing at your neighborhood park, or see the smiling face of an elderly patient at your local hospital, wouldn't you feel like a million bucks, too?

We all hope that the economy will bounce back nicely in 2012 so we can see a significant improvement in our financial situation. But before that happens, it’s not all gloom and doom; we can still take small steps with regards to the little money that we have to ensure a better and happier year ahead.

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