So maybe money can’t buy you love, friends or social status, but in complete honesty; can you really be happy without money?
Whether money can buy you happiness is one of the great existential questions of the life that we spend buried in our £600 phones. The most common argument against this is that you can have all the money in the world, yet live an unbelievably sad life. There are billionaires who live alone in huge apartments, with no real friends and no one trustworthy to talk to. Many religious texts would have you believe that rich people are greedy people and greedy people are bad, ‘It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god’ (Matthew 19:24). Therefore because money can lead you to sadness, money cannot buy you happiness, right?
No, I disagree.
Of course, there are cases where people finally get their lucky break and become rich, but then go and splash all their money out on alcohol, gambling and drugs, but without money in today’s society, it’s practically unheard of for someone to be truly happy with only a few pennies in the bank.
For example, imagine a man living in London, where living costs are higher than most other cities in the world. Say this man has been unemployed for the past year and is living on the streets. He hasn’t had a clean change of clothes in months, he hasn’t had somewhere warm to stay over the cold British winter and has had minimal food to survive on for what has probably felt like an age. Say you gave this man £1000, he could rent a room for a while, buy some new clothes, clean up, have some hot food and a good mug of tea (so British… I know). He could finally be able to turn up in a presentable state to an employer and get a job so that he could support himself, he would have somewhere warm to sleep at night and a window and roof to separate him from the rain, hail and snow outside. Would this man not be so much happier now that he was off the streets?
Now say our man had a small family. He can now provide for his partner and their child, he can buy their son a new set of clothes to wear to the school that he hasn’t been to for the past month. He might even be able to get his partner a little something for their 2nd anniversary. I don’t know about you guys, but seeing other people happy makes me happy too. The same goes for our friend, his family is happy and so is he. In our example, hasn’t money essentially bought him happiness? Hasn’t money provided him with everything that can make his life happier?
Now think about you. If you were given, say, £5000 pounds, what could you do with it? Anything that you wanted to do with it really. You could go travelling in Europe, you could redecorate your room and get rid of the hideous colour on your walls, you could even donate it to that charity that you strongly believe will make a difference to thousands of people around the globe. What is guaranteed is that you would get pleasure out of spending it on whatever you wanted to.
On the subject of charities, if money doesn’t buy people happiness, what is the £10.6 billion pounds that adults in the UK spent on charity for? Isn’t that money going somewhere to improve the quality of someone’s life? Even if it’s not going towards someone, it will be going towards something, whether that’s the rainforest, or a snow leopard. Surely by donating money to these causes you are gaining happiness over the fact that you are saving the planet?
Technology (and social media) is clearly something driven by money that gives happiness, but that is a whole other article; I’d rather not send you to sleep when you are so close to the end (!)
Obviously, in an ideal world, our happiness wouldn’t depend on money, people wouldn’t be so materialistic and we wouldn’t be so dependent on the luxuries that we have in the developed world (e.g. the device that you are reading this on). Unfortunately, the reality is that people in poverty lead lives where the what they have is insufficient for their basic human needs and often, in the 21st century, almost every way we have of fixing these problems requires money to work and this isn’t something that is likely to ever change.
So going back to the original question at the beginning of this post (I just realised how different this post is from what I had planned… oh well), do I think money can buy happiness? Yes, yes I do. Whilst having money doesn’t always make someone happy, in today’s society, I think that not having money doesn’t allow for someone to be happy. This isn’t favourable, but it’s the truth that we sadly have to face.