We all know that “money can’t buy happiness.” However, a certain amount of money is needed for the building blocks of happiness — or at least security. It’s quite difficult to be happy when you don’t have access to the basic necessities of life. And this is where money and happiness come together a little bit. Even if you are a gardening master, you still need money to purchase food when produce is out of season. Your plot of land must be bought or rented, and that takes money as well. If you are reading this, and not living off the grid somewhere, chances are that you need money to some degree.

Money Can Make Life More Pleasant

Some amount of money is necessary to provide for our basic needs. Life is indeed bleak and stressful when the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and transportation (to get to work) are not met. If you are frugal and resourceful, you might not need a great deal of money to meet these needs. You can take public transportation, buy items on sale, and budget carefully. While money may not be everything, it is certainly something, and happiness and security cannot be had without at least enough to cover the basics.

On top of that a little extra money can make life more pleasant. While constantly chasing after money as an end in itself is likely to result only in unhappiness, having a little extra disposable income can add to one’s enjoyment of life. Whether it is treating yourself to an occasional lunch with your friends, or buying bicycles so the whole family can recreate together, money can enhance life. While a great deal of it isn’t needed to be happy, especially since there is no replacement for quality time spent with loved ones, there are little ways that money can add enjoyment.

The Problem: Fixating On Material Things and Getting More Money

In my opinion, the real problem is fixating on material items and fixating on having more money. While there is nothing wrong with wanting an increase of income, and looking for ways to earn more money, it is important not to let the desire for having more stuff, and the desire for having excessive amounts of money, overcome you. Money stops being a way to make life enjoyable, and becomes a source of unhappiness, when all you focus on is what you don’t have, and how you can get more.

There will always be something you don’t have, and you can always have more money; tying your contentment and happiness to a vague notion of having “more money” results in futility. Once you make money the end goal, rather than a means to an end, you can never actually have enough of it. You can always have more stuff and you can always have more money. Tying your feelings of personal worth and well-being to money as a status symbol means that you will never be happy, because you will never have as much as you could have. Your attitude about money is one of the things that determines whether it contributes to your comfort and quality of life, or whether your desire for it gets out of hand and results in discontent and unhappiness.

Finding Contentment

Once you have provided for your basic needs now, and started on providing for your future needs, it is possible to evaluate your priorities, and consider ways to use money to increase your enjoyment. At the same time, though, it is a good idea to develop feelings of self-worth and contentment with what you already have. Build strong relationships with family and friends, and look for ways to enjoy those relationships in frugal ways. Community events and programs can be good ways to enjoy yourself without spending a great deal of money, and they can be fulfilling on a number of levels.

If you can cultivate yourself in such a way that material things and money aren’t integral to your self-identity, you will find that you are much happier. And that it doesn’t take all that much money to create a quality of life that you enjoy. So, while you might need some money, you won’t feel as though you need piles and piles of it to be happy.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.