One of my favorite internet sites  to browse is TED -  TED started in the early 80’s as a conference to bring together people from Technology, Entertainment and Design.  Its scope has expanded and the conferences multiplied.  The mission of TED is to promote “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  When I have a few minutes to spare, I look through the many talks for one that catches my attention.  Each time I find myself having a little more hope for humanity after watching one of these videos.

Recently, one such TED talk caught my attention.  The talk was by Michael Norton from Harvard Business School and was titled “How to buy happiness“.

Norton challenges the conventional wisdom that “money can’t buy happiness”.  He states that “if you think that, you’re actually just not spending it right.”

He performed a  simple experiment.  He gave out envelopes of money to random strangers, with that stipulation that they first answer a few questions and then follow the instructions in the envelope.  

Some envelopes contained money with the instruction to spend this today on yourself.  Other envelopes said to spend this money on someone else.  He then followed up with both groups and asked what they purchased along with a few questions to measure their level of happiness.

The amount of money varied – some got $5, others got $20.  You might think that those getting the most money to spend on themselves would be happiest at the end of the day, but you would be wrong.  It was those who spent money on others that reported feeling the most happy.  And the amount didn’t really matter all that much.  

The message here intrigues and inspires me.  I especially like the idea that charity doesn’t always have to be a large amount of money.  It reminds me of the Jewish teaching that even one who is dependent upon charity is obligated to give to those less fortunate.

My New Years resolution is to try to find ways of incorporating this idea of small charity into my life.  Along with the big donations I choose to make, I want to increase those small donation opportunities as well.  

I wish you each a happy secular New Year and hope that you too might find more ways in which spending your money can make you happy! 


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