Exploring the Complex Link Between Money and Happiness


Spending your money wisely can lead to happiness, just like Gertrude Stein once said. The key is to choose the right places to spend your money, both in the physical world and in your mindset.

Many people often make poor choices with their spending and end up wasting the opportunity for happiness. So, when you open your wallet and hope that a purchase will bring joy, there are three main areas where you have a better chance of achieving happiness: experiences, investing in others, and giving yourself time. These are ways to support a meaningful and fulfilling life.

  • Experience
  • Others
  • Time

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Spending time having dinner with friends, taking care of a sick family member, attending music concerts, exploring local markets for used books, enjoying family game nights, offering tutoring services, going on a hike in the mountains, cooking traditional Indian dishes, playing board games like Carrom or Ludo, visiting historic sites like the Taj Mahal or Red Fort, participating in cultural festivals, volunteering at local NGOs, savoring street food in bustling markets, watching traditional dance performances, attending local theater shows, visiting art galleries showcasing Indian artists, going on a road trip to scenic destinations, and camping in nature.

The idea that experiences bring more happiness than material possessions hold true in an Indian context as well. The evidence supporting this argument is overwhelmingly strong, but why is that the case?

Why Experience Score over Material Possessions?

Why Experience Score over Material Possessions?

First, experience engaging in activities instead of acquiring material goods—strengthen social connections. Many of the activities mentioned above are inherently social or become even more enjoyable when shared with others. Research has shown that spending quality time with friends and family, participating in cultural events, and engaging in shared experiences foster stronger bonds and contribute to happiness.

Second, experiences allow us to explore the rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes of India. From visiting historical monuments and attending traditional festivals to savoring the flavors of regional cuisine and immersing ourselves in local art and performances, these experiences offer a deep sense of connection to our roots and the unique identity of India. They provide opportunities for personal growth, broaden our perspectives, and create lasting memories.

Furthermore, experiences are less likely to become routine. Unlike material possessions that can lose their novelty over time, experiences offer variety and multi-faceted enjoyment. India’s vast geographical and cultural diversity ensures that each experience is unique and offers something new to discover. Whether it’s exploring different regions, indulging in local traditions, or immersing ourselves in the natural beauty of the country, the possibilities for enriching experiences in India are endless.


Research conducted in India has shown that smaller, frequent experiences have a greater impact on happiness and well-being compared to indulging in a single extravagant event. For instance, in one study, participants were given a prize of ₹3,500, with some individuals winning two ₹1,750 prizes while others won a single ₹3,500 prize. Another study involved participants receiving two short massages of 80 seconds each with a 20-second break in between, while another group received a continuous three-minute massage. In both cases, people reported experiencing more pleasure from the shorter, recurring experiences rather than the longer, single experience.

These findings suggest that engaging in regular activities like treating yourself to a spa day, taking occasional weekend getaways to nearby destinations, or setting aside a specific day for quality time with your partner can have a cumulative positive effect on your overall happiness. Instead of waiting for that one grand vacation you’ve been dreaming about for years, opting for frequent smaller experiences can bring you more lasting joy and fulfillment. By embracing the concept of regular indulgences, you can enhance your daily life and create a sustainable source of happiness.

Truth About Experiences

So, in the long run, choosing to enjoy smaller experiences more frequently can outweigh the impact of a single extravagant event. By incorporating regular moments of pleasure and leisure into your routine, you can cultivate a happier and more fulfilling life in India.

Experiential goods in India offer ample opportunities for personalization. With its diverse cultural landscape, individuals can tailor their experiences to align with their interests and values. Whether it’s participating in spiritual retreats, learning traditional arts and crafts, or engaging in adventure sports, India offers a wide range of options for personal growth and self-expression through experiences.

In summary, choosing experiences over material possessions in India can lead to greater happiness and fulfillment. By investing in meaningful experiences, exploring the country’s cultural richness, and forging strong social connections, we can create a life filled with joy and memorable moments.

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Imagine walking through the bustling streets of an Indian city when a friendly stranger approaches you. She introduces herself and asks if you would like to participate in a quick and harmless experiment. You are intrigued, you agree. She hands you an envelope and inside is a ₹500 note along with a message:

“Please spend this ₹500 before 5 pm today on a gift for yourself or any of your expenses (e.g., rent, bills, or debt).”

However, not everyone received the same message. Another group received an envelope with a different message:

“Please spend this ₹500 before 5 pm today on a gift for someone else or make a donation to charity.”

Later that evening, you receive a phone call from the researcher. She asks two questions: First, how happy are you right now? Second, how did you spend the money?

TRUTHS ABOUT OTHERSThe real-world results of this experiment showed that those who spent the money on others were significantly happier than those who spent it on themselves, even though there were no initial differences in happiness levels between the groups. The amount of cash in the envelope varied as well, with some receiving ₹2,000 instead of ₹500. However, the larger amount had no impact on the effect of either group, even for those who were given ₹2,000 to spend on themselves.

On average, the ratio of personal spending to pro-social spending is more than 10-to-1. This doesn’t mean that we live excessively or indulgently. Most of our personal spending goes towards essential expenses like mortgages, utilities, and groceries. However, whenever possible, giving to others has positive consequences for the giver.

The positive feelings associated with pro-social spending are rooted in a neural connection between giving and experienced happiness. This link remains strong even when someone is compelled to give. In fact, studies have shown that individuals who are instructed to be generous still experience greater positive emotions. The connection between generosity and happiness is universal, transcending countries and income levels. Both the rich and the poor find joy in giving. Pro-social spending also has a profound impact on reflective happiness. Similar to experiences, giving to others deepens our connections, enhances our sense of control, and allows us to connect our own stories to something greater than ourselves.

In the Indian context, the act of giving to others, whether through gifts or charitable donations, holds immense significance. The culture of seva (selfless service) and philanthropy has deep roots in India’s traditions and values. By embracing the power of giving, we not only bring happiness to others but also enrich our own lives and cultivate a sense of purpose and interconnectedness within our communities.


In today’s fast-paced Indian society, the concept of being constantly busy has become the norm. Many individuals find themselves overwhelmed by various obligations and distractions, leaving little time to truly enjoy the simple pleasures of life, whether it’s spending quality moments with family or engaging in beloved hobbies. There exists a delicate balance between having more time and possessing other valuable resources, particularly money. It’s a common scenario where one can choose to work harder, aiming to earn more, or alternatively, take a step back and embrace a simpler lifestyle that allows for more enjoyment but with potentially lesser financial gains. However, attaining both abundant time and wealth remains a luxury that only a fortunate few can achieve.

Money, to a certain extent, has the ability to buy time. It can eliminate distractions and provide shortcuts or conveniences that open up more opportunities to engage in pleasurable activities.

TRUTH ABOUT TIME! Whether it’s opting for a non-stop flight to save time, purchasing a Fast Pass at popular attractions like Disney World, or having ample vacation leave with flexibility, these financial resources can effectively “create” more time in our lives. Experiences, on the other hand, demand significant blocks of time, be it hours, days, weeks, or even longer, to fully immerse ourselves in their richness. One cannot embark on a week-long trip and expect to compress it into a single day. Time is an investment when it comes to nurturing relationships, exploring new destinations, volunteering, and indulging in hobbies and fulfilling work. Having the luxury of time, or time affluence, distinct from time poverty, creates abundant opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

Moreover, time affluence has a profound impact on our mental well-being and the pursuit of reflective happiness. With more time at our disposal, we can rest, reflect, and contemplate, which in turn allows us to achieve a deeper connection with ourselves and our surroundings. In contrast, time poverty poses a dual challenge. It not only hinders our ability to alleviate sadness or pain but also restricts the space for personal growth and the improvement of our overall happiness. It’s no surprise that individuals who become consumed by work, often referred to as workaholics, frequently find themselves lacking the touchstones in life that generate a sense of purpose and deeper contentment.

In a study conducted in India in 2016, researchers explored the preferences of individuals when given a choice between having more money or more time. Interestingly, in every scenario, the majority voted in favor of money over time. However, those who opted for time reported higher levels of both experienced and reflective happiness, even after controlling for factors such as age, income level, and occupation. Individuals who prioritize time over money are more likely to engage in self-reflection and actively participate in activities that bring them joy. By eliminating distractions and creating the necessary space for personal achievement, they cultivate a sense of contentment that transcends material wealth.

While money can certainly buy temporary happiness, its influence is limited and short-lived. The phenomenon known as the hedonic treadmill reminds us that the initial boost in daily happiness acquired through monetary gains eventually diminishes. However, the significance of money extends beyond fleeting joy, as it possesses the power to alleviate pain and distraction caused by sadness and misfortune. This not only holds obvious value but also allows individuals to preserve their mental energy, enabling them to engage in more contemplative pursuits and embark on a journey towards true wealth – a wealth of meaning and fulfillment.

In essence, our minds can become cluttered and preoccupied, hindering our ability to find deeper contentment and purpose. Therefore, having the wherewithal to prioritize time and consciously allocate it to meaningful experiences and self-reflection is essential for unlocking true wealth in the Indian context. By striking a balance between time and financial resources, we can navigate the complexities of modern Indian life and find moments of true happiness and fulfillment. It requires a conscious effort to create a lifestyle that values time alongside financial stability.

In a society where busyness is celebrated, it is crucial to recognize the importance of time for personal growth, relationships, and overall well-being. By prioritizing time over excessive work or material gains, we can carve out space for family, friends, and ourselves. This might mean taking breaks to enjoy leisure activities, pursuing hobbies that bring us joy, or simply being present in the moments that matter.

The Indian context offers numerous opportunities to experience the richness of life outside the confines of work and material possessions. From exploring the diverse cultural heritage of the country to engaging in spiritual practices and immersing ourselves in nature’s beauty, India presents a treasure trove of experiences that can enrich our lives and provide a deeper sense of purpose.

Furthermore, the concept of time affluence goes beyond the individual realm. It extends to creating a society where people have access to sufficient leisure time, work-life balance, and the freedom to pursue their passions. By valuing time as a valuable resource and advocating for policies that promote well-being and leisure, we can collectively enhance the quality of life for all.

Ultimately, the pursuit of happiness in the Indian context requires a delicate balance between time, money, and personal values. It entails recognizing that true wealth lies not just in financial abundance but also in the ability to savor simple pleasures, nurture relationships, and find meaning in our daily lives. By consciously making choices that prioritize time and align with our core values, we can unlock a life of fulfillment and joy in the vibrant tapestry of modern India.

Impact PointAspectMoney Connection
Inner LivesControl– Affords better nutrition and medical care.

-Buys independence, time, and flexibility.

-Provides security and helps overcome challenges.

-Enables personal freedom and choice.

Competence– Allows investment in skills and potential for excellence.
Outer LivesConnection– Facilitates social experiences, networks, memberships, and access.

– Provides time to build and strengthen relationships.

Context– Buys time and creates synergies with control, competence, and connection.

Money plays a significant role in various aspects of life. It influences both the inner and outer aspects, shaping experiences and opportunities. The impact points highlight specific areas where money’s connection becomes evident.

In terms of inner lives, money provides individuals with a sense of control. It enables access to better nutrition and healthcare, offering independence, flexibility, and the ability to overcome challenges. Money also empowers individuals to invest in their competence, supporting skill development and the pursuit of excellence.

When it comes to outer lives, money has a profound impact on connection. It facilitates social experiences, creates networks, and grants access to memberships and opportunities. Moreover, money provides the time needed to foster and strengthen relationships, both existing and new.

In the overall context of life, money becomes a valuable resource. It buys time, allowing individuals to navigate their control, competence, and connection more effectively. The interplay of these elements contributes to a more fulfilling and well-rounded life experience.

In summary, money’s influence extends beyond financial transactions. It affects control, competence, and connection, enhancing various aspects of life and contributing to personal growth, well-being, and social engagement.

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    Explore Wealth Management like never before.
    Download CWM Brochure

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