Info Gluttony

Buying Happiness

Posted in family, health is wealth, personal by echan on June 30, 2009

This NYT piece on calculating happiness directed me to to this Tierney Lab piece where Dr. Geoffrey Miller lays out the following exercise:

List the ten most expensive things (products, services or experiences) that you have ever paid for (including houses, cars, university degrees, marriage ceremonies, divorce settlements and taxes). Then, list the ten items that you have ever bought that gave you the most happiness. Count how many items appear on both lists.

Off the top of my head, these are my results:

Top 10 Most Expensive Items (in no particular order):

-HLS Degree

-Laser Dinghy for Finch

-Used Blazer SUV to learn how to drive in

-Casket for my paternal grandmother

-Taxes (I really don’t think this should be part of the exercise though; it’s not voluntary spending.)


-China / Japan Trip

-Croatia / Rome / London Trip

-Galapagos Trip

-Gas / Spending Money for Chelle during 3 years of college

-3 summers of debate camp might make this list, but my mother paid for it, God bless her!

The 10 purchased things that have brought me the most happiness are

(also, in no particular order):

-HLS degree



-Little trinkets for my maternal grandmother

-Trips to New York to see friends

-New Yorker Subscription

-Casket for paternal grandmother (happy in that “I can sleep at night because her body was properly laid to rest” way)

-Balloons for C. Bear

-Tea with Chelle

-Trip to Spain with Finch

-My first iPod


A few things strike me about these lists.  First, I really haven’t purchased anything that’s extravagently expensive.  My HLS degree is both something that makes me extremely happy at times, and extremely frustrated at others.  It represented a 3 year break from the working world, and in many respects, it’s the possession that I have will bring me the highest return (even with my continuing loan payments).

Second, from the happiness list, I feel that I am truly happiest when I’m spending money on or time with other people who are close to me.  I’m happy, if I can make them happy.  The selfish items on there, are the ones, that allow me to relax (the New Yorker, bed, iPod).

The last thing, is that out of my trips, the ones that I took after I finished law school, which were the ones where I most flush with cash or were “big” trips weren’t the ones that made it to the list of happy items/experiences.


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