Money Isn’t Everything, But Happiness Is: Happy Go Money Book Review And Giveaway

Money Isn't Everything, But Happiness Is: Happy Go Money Book Review

"This book isn’t necessarily going to make you crazy rich. But it will make your life richer"

– Melissa Leong

Book giveaway: Congratulations to Jane from British Columbia for being the winner of our giveaway! And thank you to everyone who participated. Happy saving! 

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:

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.

Related: The War On Debt: How NOT To Keep Up With The Joneses

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.

Be positive

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.

Related: How To Set – And Stick To – Your FUN Budget

Tackling debt

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.

Related: The War On Debt: Shopping For A Better Deal From The Bank

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?

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

Editorial Disclaimer: The content here reflects the author's opinion alone, and is not endorsed or sponsored by a bank, credit card issuer, rewards program or other entity.

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Julie Lee
Julie Lee's picture

After reading your energetic review of Melissa Leong's publication. I can't wait to check it out! Since my personal guidelines are congruent to Melissa's thoughts, I would like to add another snippet to her grounding advice especially to the section, "Be happy with what you have".

Since the ages of 0-5 are the formative years for children, if the above attitude could be presented and shared during this crucial beginning in their lives, then a solid foundation/recipe for happiness is firmly established. In today's modern society, "Beauty, Intelligence and Wealth" appears to be the defining cornerstones of "success/ happiness." Perhaps, if each of us were to be happy by celebrating our strengths but, at the same time, accepting our weaknesses by making deliberate attempts to minimize those weaker areas, a happier society could arrive.

January 08, 2019 @ 12:10 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hello Julie,

You're right, that's such an important lesson for everyone to learn! It's unfortunate it's become sort of a cliché and lost some of its meaning and impact because of it. But as they say, clichés are cliché for a reason – because they're true.

Thanks for sharing!

January 10, 2019 @ 10:26 am
Jerry's picture

Could you please resend you excellent summary about Free Internet TV. I have misplaced it.

January 08, 2019 @ 12:25 pm
Philip Foster
Philip Foster's picture

Scroll to the top of the howtosavemoney screen, then to the box entitled "All-Time Must Read" . The sixth line links to the article you wanted.
You're welcome.

January 08, 2019 @ 1:59 pm
Karen Carlson
Karen Carlson's picture

Would love to win this book. Sound like an interesting combination. Finance meets self-help.

January 08, 2019 @ 1:27 pm
Ken's picture

Always fun to learn new things and tweak your life as you see fit. Seems this is a non-nonsense approach compared to some of thise Wealthy barber books, which seems to be for people that love and care about investing. This seems more my style, I like to save for the future, but I could care less about sitting down end of day so make sure every dime I have is invested correctly

January 08, 2019 @ 5:31 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hey Ken,

It's definitely a personal finance book for the everyday person who doesn't want to be thinking about their money every day of their life. It emphasizes worrying about what really matters, and making sure your money can help you achieve that.

Thanks for your comment!

January 10, 2019 @ 10:27 am
Mark's picture

It will be perfect for me - I need a fresh start in 2019, and nothing beats money and happiness!

January 08, 2019 @ 7:48 pm
Mary Axford
Mary Axford's picture

Melissa Leong's book sounds like it would be quite useful. We had to sell our house due to high debt and no way to pay it down. Thankfully we were able to sell the house and pay all our debts off. We are now in an apartment. Would love to win Melissa's book and figure out how to budget and keep our lives on track.

January 08, 2019 @ 9:17 pm
AnotherAndre's picture

I'd love to read that book. Be happy with with you have is what everyone should learn to do. Finding that is a "life experience" in itself. I'll be happy to pay forward and give someone that book once I'm done reading it.

January 09, 2019 @ 1:17 am
Cheryl's picture

Sounds like a great book to read. Although money not buy happiness, it can sure help you afford your misery!

January 09, 2019 @ 1:59 am
Louise's picture

I love learning how to be rational and make smart decisions about money - and who doesn't want to be happy? Sounds like it would be a good read!

January 09, 2019 @ 7:35 am
JOY's picture

Money causes so much stress! I would love a book that will help me, teach me, and allow me some financial freedom!

January 09, 2019 @ 1:36 pm
A Harrison
A Harrison's picture

I would love to get this book. In my experience, money and happiness often seem at the polar extremes, and this book seems just what I need to be happy and smart with money. I also have some financial goals for 2019 that I would like to crush!

January 09, 2019 @ 4:05 pm
Pam's picture

I would love to get this book. Sounds like a refreshing way of approaching personal budgeting!

January 09, 2019 @ 4:19 pm
T G's picture

I am in a lot of debt, just getting my life back together. I helped family with major real estate purchases and I am left without much. This book would help me kickstart 2019 right.

January 09, 2019 @ 4:27 pm
Judy's picture

This sounds like a great book to start the year off right! I have just recently finished paying off a large amount of debt and am aiming to rebuild my savings and enjoy my life - without ever amassing debt of that sort again. I am always open to trying new ways to increase my financial and personal happiness knowledge!

January 09, 2019 @ 5:00 pm
Ashleigh Swerdfeger
Ashleigh Swerdfeger's picture

This sounds awesome! I would like to win because the book re frames money issues and happiness-which is so important. Also, because I do have debt and could use some extra support. It's also great that there are discussion points, i could definitely use them with my family.

January 09, 2019 @ 5:02 pm
Jennifer L
Jennifer L 's picture

I would love to feel better about money, more positive especially, and it sounds like this book offers a way to do this.

January 09, 2019 @ 5:23 pm
Sheila's picture

Be happy with what you have.

January 09, 2019 @ 5:28 pm
Suzanne G
Suzanne G's picture

I would love to win this book as it would be a perfect gift for my daughter for her birthday. It sounds like something that would help her out with her finances.

January 09, 2019 @ 6:44 pm
ANTHONY's picture

I would want to read this book because I like the idea of being happier, healthier, and more financially flexible. I also think that when I learn something new, then I'm able to share and spread it with others!

January 09, 2019 @ 7:05 pm
Jane 's picture

Happiness and money, two of my favourites!

January 09, 2019 @ 7:52 pm
Kim's picture

This book sounds like a refreshing view on financial insight and health and wellness all in one! A good way to reignite and align the most important areas of life. If one gained a different perspective through this book, what a wonderful accomplishment. Times are changing and thought processes need polishing; this book sounds like it would do just that! Yes please!!

January 09, 2019 @ 10:15 pm
Leigh (HOPELESS WITH MONEY)'s picture

Hi there.

I am HOPELESS WITH MONEY. The world may change, but MONEY? If only life could be as constant (transparent) as money. No surprises. What you see is what you get. Maybe this book can provide some insight for us helpless with our money. Here's to hoping.

January 10, 2019 @ 2:14 am
Jennifer's picture

Well, I have just turned 60 and I know
that at some time (hopefully sooner than later) retirement will be in my future. But I have to have my financial house in order if that is going to happen.This book may give me another perspective on how to manage the future.
Cheers to the New Year!

January 10, 2019 @ 8:49 am
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Belated happy birthday Jennifer!

The book does have a nice section on retirement. She calls your future retired self your "Silver Fox" – very cute.

Happy New Year!

January 10, 2019 @ 10:29 am

I am intrigued by this book and I would love a copy of it!!!! I am at a point in my life where I really need to get serious about my financial present and future.

January 10, 2019 @ 10:10 am
Susan Huston
Susan Huston's picture

I love the combination of practicality with sensible ways to enjoy life and still fulfill monetary goals. This book sounds like a good read and I would definitely pass it on to my son when I was finished. (He doesn't like his mother's monetary advice!)

January 10, 2019 @ 4:01 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hey Susan,

That's a great idea to pass onto your son. Have you given him "Wealthing Like Rabbits" yet? That's a great read for teens/young adults as well.

Thanks for your comment!

January 11, 2019 @ 2:58 pm
Amanda's picture

To keep learning is a blessing, would enjoy this insight!

January 10, 2019 @ 4:55 pm
Katie's picture

It sounds like an interesting and informative read!

January 10, 2019 @ 11:09 pm
Rachel 's picture

This book would certainly be an asset. The tools mentioned in this review definitely would help me towards my goals of reaching my financial health.

January 11, 2019 @ 8:16 am
Philip's picture


I would love to receive this book. My wife and I are both public servants and in debt up to our eyes. We both initially went into debt for our university education in hopes of attaining good, secure jobs to have a successful and happy life. We graduated during the recession in the 1990's, and although the jobs we landed only required high school, employers were seeking university graduates due to the economic climate. Years of working term, causal, and sun-set clause positions we both finally obtained indeterminate positions.

We borrowed to get married, buy a house, a car, and then the kids came along. Rearrange, consolidate, re-mortgage, we have applied it all. Our jobs only see 0.65 to 0.75% pay increases each year and only then after our collective agreements have been expired 4 to 5 years. Then the new pay system is often unable to pay us correctly. With the cost of living increasing about 2% each year we are falling further and further behind, often borrowing to make up the difference.

We love our jobs and the people we serve everyday, but want to learn how to get our financial house in order to reduce stress and be happy. We feel like we are hamsters running on a wheel, going nowhere, existing only to pay the interest to lenders. Many of our friends and coworkers feel the same. There must be a better way, and we want to learn how. I believe after reading the description of Melissa Leong's book that her information will be the answer!

January 12, 2019 @ 11:08 am
Laurent L
Laurent L's picture

I'm always looking for more financial advice. I'd like to read this book. thanks for the review and giveaway.

January 12, 2019 @ 12:01 pm
Shannon L
Shannon L's picture

I got into a wee bit of debt at the end of 2018, and I want to change my financial habits to get out of debt this year or at least minimize the amount of debt I incur going forward. This book seems like a good fit for me, and I would love to read it.

January 16, 2019 @ 9:20 pm
Maxine Traub
Maxine Traub's picture

I would love this book because I have recently cut my work in half which has cut my income in half and I am keen to learn how to make each dollar stretch as far as it can. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Maxine Traub

January 17, 2019 @ 11:45 pm
Mel's picture

Sounds like a great book to read, would love to win it.

January 18, 2019 @ 1:38 pm
Greg's picture

I would love to read this book with my wife. We are very diffierent in our financial philosophies but reading your book together would hopefully help us align our sights on a common goal moving forward. With kids and a mortgage and sports and work - life is nuts. Having a shared and open vision about our fsmily’s financial future would be incredible.

Thanks, Greg

January 21, 2019 @ 2:57 pm

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