The Cost of Happiness

Just as a fun pass time activity, I have always wondered how to measure the cost associated with our happiness. My theory is that we first need to have “Happiness Points” ranging from 0 to 100 for each of our experience / feeling / product etc. The points can range between 0, which brings you no happiness at all to a maximum of 100 meaning a great ecstasy of happiness that you can revisit again and again. This point system should consider every form of happiness that you derive out of the thing under condideration.

Let’s take an example to understand this better. Say you buy a new phone. There are several layers of happiness it brings in. First is the instant gratification when you hold the shiny new phone as you unbox it. It also brings in happiness every time someone recognizes your new phone and says that it looks cool (for the first few days). You also get some form of happiness when use it, being faster or better than your earlier model (you feel this at least for the first few months). Now can you summarize this happiness in one single number between 0-100 (Let us take it was about 40). This becomes the “Happiness Points” for that Phone, specifically for you. Another example could be the recent big fat vacation you went to. It must have been thrilling to anticipate it and then you enjoyed it during the actual trip posting pics on social media, you came back and explained it in detail to envious friends and even after several years you get a slight nostalgic happiness when you see the pics in an album. Can you put all of this in a single number representing the sum total happiness. (How about 60). Hope you have a hang of this “Happiness Points” now.

Next, let’s see how much each point is costing you. In our phone example, if you had spent 40k on the phone to get the 40 happiness points, then it simply means you spent 1000 Rs on one Happiness Point buying the phone. If you had spent 1.8 Lakhs on the trip then it means you spent 6000 Rs per happiness point for the trip. It is “Total Cost” divided by “Happiness Points” to find how much each point was paid for.

Now that you know how much happiness is costing you, the trick is to find cheap happiness 🙂 and this will vary for everyone, while avoiding high cost happiness. For me, a good book can get me a 30-50 happiness easily and I spend approx 400 Rs on a book, meaning I get one happiness point for a mere 10 Rs when I buy and read a book. If I buy a used book or take a Kindle plan the cost will be even less and this is just one example of low cost happiness. Contrast this to when I almost ended up buying a 5000 Rs Shirt (did not see the tag 🙂 ) which would have given me just 10 points of happiness. This would have been high cost happiness as each point would have costed 500 Rs. For someone else, clothes might bring in a huge burst of happiness everytime they wear it (how many times do you wear though?), while books might not mean much to them.

This “Happiness Points” system can also explain other seemingly random topics. What is ‘mindfulness’ other than eeking out more happiness in everyday simple things that you do. Let’s take Charity for example. People have figured out that they get the maximum happiness points when they do stuff for others who are not priveleged by spending a fraction of the amount that they spend on themselves. Another thing it explains is the “Law of Diminishing return”. Do you get double the happiness when you buy something that is double the price (say a TV). No. As the cost keeps increasing, your happiness only increases a bit. Even “Delayed Gratification” is just increasing anticipation happiness and reducing cost by waiting for bit longer.

As you fill your life with frugal but quality happiness choices, you will feel super rich and notice that money is not, after all, stopping you from having a great time. Also, next time you get tempted to open your purse (or click Google Pay) for something that you think is going to make you “happy”, pause, do a quick happiness points check and see if it is “actually” worth it.

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