One Key Money Hack You Need to Know in order to BUY Happiness

money Jun 26, 2017

As of 2011, the #1 item on kids' Christmas lists was.... The iPad.

So, it goes without saying that we might need a bit of a wake-up call in terms of how to spend our money. We don’t have a clear understanding of how to truly use money as a tool to enhance our quality of life. Too often, we have been led to believe that more money is the end goal - but it’s really only a means to an end. And luckily, there’s now a ton of science to prove it.

So how do we really BUY happiness?

What are the secret tricks to using money to make you happier, regardless of how much of it you actually have? Well, there are a few, but in this article, we’ll focus on one in particular.

And this money hack is one you don’t hear about in the typical books on personal finance, and you certainly won’t hear it on the news - because it kind of goes against what ‘society’ tells us. 

So here it is…

Increase the time between purchase and consumption1

The problem is, people tend to overvalue the present. We live in a world that encourages instant gratification without realizing the detriment that is to our wellbeing.  And suppressing these desires to consume now is becoming increasingly harder because we have the ability to download products instantly or have them delivered to your doorstep.

And to make matters worse, many of us are not actually paying for these products and services, until after we consume them - through the use of credit cards. It's way more enticing to consume the good (the product or experience) now and delay the bad (actually paying for it). But this is counterproductive to our happiness. I’ll explain the effects of this later... 

So you have to develop the muscle of consuming later with the knowledge that this will help you maximize your wellbeing and quality of life. By keeping that in mind as your incentive, you’ll be more willing to practice the methods in this article. 

Ok so here’s what happens when you increase the time between when you actually buy or purchase something, and when you consume it.

There is enormous value in anticipation. The anticipation that occurs leading up to that vacation, or that dinner reservation, or that Broadway show enables you to fully reap the benefits of the experience.

So the more time you have prior to the consumption, the greater the chances are that you will fantasize or imagine what the consumption will be like. You might spend time researching what’s on the menu or figuring out the specific hotels you want to stay at during your vacation. Or you might spend more time discussing ideas with your spouse and developing well thought out plans. All of these pre-consumption activities helps you draw out more positive emotions from the purchase.

Something I find fascinating is that according to neuroscience, we can go almost anywhere in our minds and the brain doesn’t know the difference between the actual experience and the fantasy we’ve created. So in other words, you obtain just as much value from the fantasy as you do from the experience or the consumption itself.

So you’re probably wondering if we set ourselves up for disappointment by doing this? The answer is no. This is because we actually end up projecting our positive expectations onto the experience itself. What do I mean? In one study2, people who were led to believe that a set of cartoons would be funny... ended up laughing more.* Said another way, your expectations and mindset literally create your reality.

In addition, it’s also important to know that when you pay now, you can enjoy your purchase more - and it can even feel like it’s free if you wait long enough.

Think of an all-inclusive vacation. When you paid for everything a long time ago, by the time the experience happens, you can be fully present because the negative emotion of the payment has passed. HOWEVER, paying for it doesn’t mean putting it on a credit card. Paying things with credit delays the inevitable which can create the feeling of guilt during consumption. In other words, you don’t want to be thinking about paying off your credit card debt while you are trying to enjoy your all-inclusive vacation.

So here are a few scenarios where delaying your consumption has the greatest benefit...

1. The more room for fantasizing the better

Any purchase that allows you to do more imagining, or more opportunities to fill in the gaps with details and ideas have greater potential to increase your happiness. Think about your next vacation or that weekend getaway you’ve planned in the log cabin. Purchases like these have enough variables, and enough room to continuously expand your fantasy until the experience actually happens.

2. When the actual experience is short-lived

If you think about it, a lot of “life” occurs within the gaps of time between experiences - when we’re in commute to a place we’ve been wanting to go, or when we’re cooking that meal that we’ve been dying to eat. The experience itself can sometimes be short lived. It might only take 15 minutes to eat your favorite pasta dish. So when you know the actual experience will be short-lived, give yourself enough time beforehand to build up that anticipation. Schedule your that movie that you’ve been dying to see at least 2 weeks from now! 

3. When it’s a purchase you are extremely excited about

The more significance or weight that is placed on the purchase - whether it’s a “thing” or an “experience” the more value you will get in delaying it. This is where Amazon Prime is NOT helping you 😉. In contrast, do NOT delay consumption for things that are necessities like getting your car fixed or grocery shopping. 

So in summary, remember these things

1. Don’t use credit

2. Control your urge to get it now

3. DON'T delay necessary and important purchases

4. DO delay purchases that are short-lived or that enable you to fantasize

5. Schedule it - putting it on your calendar makes it concrete and gives you something to look forward to.

REMEMBER that the goal here is to BUY happiness. If you want to truly hack your wellbeing, and get the most life out of your money, this is one habit you MUST learn. 



1 Stephen M. Nowlis, Naomi Mandel, and Deborah Brown McCabe, "The Effect of a Delay between Choice and Consumption on Consumption Enjoyment," Journal of Consumer Research 31, no.3 (December 2004): 502-10

2 Timothy D. Wilson, Douglas J. Lisle, Dolores Kraft, and Christopher G. Wetzel, "Preferences as Expectation-Driven Inferences: Effects of Affective Expectations on Affective Experience," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56, no.4 (April 1989): 519-30


Comment below to let us know which one you find the most useful! And if you have a 'hack' of your own, feel free to share!

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