"This book isn’t necessarily going to make you crazy rich. But it will make your life richer"
– Melissa Leong
Book giveaway: We're giving away 1 free copy of Melissa's Happy Go Money. Leave a comment telling us why you want it, and we'll draw a winner on January 29th. Happy reading!
We all know money can’t buy happiness.
But do you know what can?
Feeling secure in all areas of your life, money included, while also having the means to achieve your dreams.
Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money is a special entry into the world of money books because it’s half finance, half psychological self-help.
If you tend to cringe away from self-help books, not sure how most of them can help you in any way – don’t worry, me too.
But Happy Go Money is different.
This book isn’t just about putting sticky notes on your mirror to remind yourself that "there’s no day like today," though Melissa does admit to using this tactic herself.
Instead, she gives you real, concrete ways that you can take control of your happiness – both inside and outside of money.
Best of all, she isn’t going to tell you to stop buying that latte you love so much. She’ll just help you work it into your budget. Which is under your control.
So, are you interested in taking the reins of your finances?
Let’s take a look at the points that stood out the most:
- focus on yourself and what you have,
- be positive – both about life and about your money,
- change your life for the better,
- go and do versus get and own,
- budgeting means freedom, not restriction, and
- kill your debt.
Don’t worry, be happy
A big portion of this book is devoted to making sure you’re happy and, most of all, you know what makes you happy.
The first and third sections, titled "Buying Happiness" and “Feel Like A Million Bucks (For Free)” respectively, both deal with your happiness, mostly leaving money problems in the candy-sprinkled dust.
The big lesson here: know yourself. Know what makes you happy and achieve it, whatever it is.
You deserve it.
Focus on yourself
All of us have been jealous a few times in our lives...Okay, maybe more than a few times.
But there’s no real value to these feelings. As Melissa quotes, "Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
No real value, that is, unless it causes you to act and improve on yourself in a constructive way.
But for all the other times, when you compare yourself to strangers on Instagram and react by diving deeper into your bed and the Ben & Jerry's, you’re really just making yourself feel crappy for no reason.
Don’t compare yourself to others
If your friend just bought a nice new car, while you’re still lugging around your 2003 Corolla, that’s okay. If your car does its job and you don’t have the budget for a new car, you’re not any less of a person.
But these feelings are natural. Melissa references a 2016 study that showed neighbours of lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy after the win. We just want to keep up.
But we don’t have to.
Be happy with what you have
The truth is we’re always going to want more than what we have.
This is called hedonic adaptation, a fancy way of saying that we learn to live with what we’ve got.
Because of this, happiness is on a sliding scale. There’s no specific salary that will make you happier if you could earn it.
In a study that asked how much money the participants thought they needed to be happy, everyone said 2 to 3 times as much money as they were making.
So if they were making $30,000, they said they’d need at least $60,000 to be truly happy. But the thing is, people who were making $60,000 weren’t happy either. They said they needed at least $120,000 to be happy.
So, instead of wishing and hoping for that magical number, re-evaluate and see how you can make what you have work for you.
You can revolutionize how you look at money if you just rephrase your approach to it.
When you make a financial decision, you’re not saying "no" to something. You’re just saying “yes” to something else.
Don’t tell your friends you’re "too broke to go out tonight." Instead, say “I’d love to, but I’m saving up for my winter vacation. It’s gonna be a great one.”
If you focus on what you gain by saving rather than what you miss out on, you can bring a more productive self to your financial duties instead of letting the F.O.M.O. take over.
Update your outdated benchmarks of financial success
The world is changing. And fast.
Yet, we still hold on to the benchmarks that our parents had: having a house, stable job, huge retirement savings...
If you don’t have these things, you can still be secure in your finances. And you can still be happy.
Renting has its pros, freelancing simply trades stability for flexibility, and it’s never too late to start saving for retirement.
So instead of these tired old benchmarks, how about asking yourself: Are you happy? Do you have what you want in life so far? Are you achieving your goals? Are you working towards new ones?
That’s what’s important.
Change your life for the better
The final point I want to shine a spotlight on within the self-help portion of this book is Melissa’s emphasis on eating right, sleeping well, and exercising.
Though I admit it was initially surprising to see these 3 common (and important) recommendations in a personal finance book, she sold me with this line:
"We chase and spend money in the pursuit of happiness. But if we’re exhausted, energy broke and our blood sugar is plummeting, that pursuit will be even more futile. Health is wealth."
Remember the basics. If you want your brain to be ready to take on your finances, you should make sure it’s in tip-top shape.
Take control of your money
Of course, not the whole book was about being happy regardless of your money.
Melissa hits all the basics of personal finance, giving a good beginner’s overview that gets you motivated to find out more and make a difference in your life. She covers:
Though these topics may be nothing new to someone who’s read a couple personal finance books already, the way she frames them and connects them back to your overall happiness deserves a read.
Here’s some of my favourite money-related content.
Go and do versus get and own
You may have heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: You tend to be happier when you spend money on experiences rather than stuff.
Stuff will lose its value. And I’m not just talking about monetary value – I mean that sparkle you get in your eyes every time you see your new car…
Yeah. That will go away. It’ll age like milk.
But experiences age like a fine wine, especially those spent with the people you love. Those memories stay forever, and they’ll always be something you’ll look back on and say, "I’m glad I did that."
Try saying that to your old baseball card collection that refuses to sell on Kijiji.
Do as happy people do
When happy people get a lump of free cash, they tend to spend it in the following way:
- 23% on consumer goods,
- 25% for savings and investments,
- 12% for charities or giving to others, and
- 40% on life experiences.
Experiences will always be a better investment. Though you can’t resell your vacation to Hawaii in a yard sale, you’ve cultivated relationships with people around you.
And social relationships are the most important factor in happiness. Period.
Budgeting means freedom
Restricting your spending is giving yourself financial freedom.
If you budget, you’re free to spend without guilt and free to get the things you want in the long term.
Melissa emphasizes opening a separate, no-fee chequing account with a debit card for your fun budget. As long as there’s money on that card, you can do whatever you want with it.
This takes all the stress and guilt out of spending money on non-essentials.
Do you want to take your friend out for their birthday? Yes. Do you have enough money in your fun account? Yes.
Then go. Be free.
Thank you, budget.
Did you cringe when you read the word debt?
It’s okay. It’s never too late to get started on tackling your debt.
Melissa states several times that debt is the biggest happiness killer.
So you have to kill it before it kills you first.
But unlike video games and movies where the biggest, hardest enemy comes up last, she says you should tackle the scariest debt with the highest interest rate first.
Each debt you kill will give you more ammunition for the next. It’ll only get easier as you go on and devote less and less money to it.
And don’t think you can buy an easy way out. That’s what got you here in the first place.
Face your debt head-on, and remember: you can do this.
If I were to get nit-picky...
The first section makes sense to start with – you don’t need money or material things to make you happy.
Then we start talking about money, which is a good transition. It's a personal finance book after all.
But, in the third section, we go back to happiness. At this point, I was geared up for some investment talk which left me wanting just a little bit more...
Book club material
That said, this book is a prime candidate for your book club’s next non-fiction entry.
Melissa encourages discussion with friends and family throughout. At the end of each chapter are discussion points to inspire conversation and bite-size goals that you can start working on right away.
Her voice is always encouraging, sometimes funny, but mostly maintains a nice balance between friendly and informative. It feels like she has my best interest in mind, while giving me room to work outside the age-old personal finance rules of thumb.
I walked away from this book feeling like I had a very productive talk with a close friend.
It’s not by any means an advanced course in personal finance, but it’s a great way to start getting a handle on your money – and your happiness.
Rest assured, you won't feel drowned in generalities about investments and saving for retirement. Instead, you'll learn how to fill yourself with self-love, gratitude, and contentment.
Though we all know money can’t buy happiness, freedom from financial stress sure helps get us closer.
How about you – do you want to give it a read?