Hacking Hedonic Adaptation to Get Way More For Your Money

After three years, wall-mounted toilet paper has become the latest thrill.

When I built our current house, I decided to do as much of the work as practical myself, because I learned years ago that this is the most satisfying way to live.

I love sitting back late at night, especially during cold winter nights or intense summer rainstorms, and looking up at the high ceilings and the ornately framed windows and thinking about all that structure holding itself together and protecting us so nicely inside. Satisfaction.

Sure, practicality also required some compromises – for this particular house I hired out the big, repetitive task of drywall, and hired friends to work with me on the heavy parts like framing the roof.

But as soon as the house was even remotely habitable, with plywood kitchen countertops and no bathroom sink, we moved in. This allowed me to keep working on the place without being away from the family, and also to move out and stage the previous house nicely so we could put it on the market.

That was in early 2014, and true to my nature I’ve never really stopped working on the house since then. The first things were urgent, like quality countertops and sinks and faucets, appliances and light fixtures and functioning closets, so I did these things quickly. Then I installed a really nice woodstove before that first winter came, then built the second bathroom, and moved on to renovate our son’s room in the old wing of the house that had not been part of the fully rebuilt section. Then more closets, trims, cabinetry, little features here and there as the need arose, and even the rather major feature of the detached Rock’n’roll Studio.

There have been a hundred little upgrades, always arriving with random timing, as time permitted.  And the interesting thing about them has been this:

Each little upgrade – whether big or small – has brought a similar amount of short-lived but genuine happiness.

When I upgraded the countertops from plywood to quartz, we were all thrilled at the new, smooth and easily cleanable nature of the kitchen. Then after a week or two, this thrill became the new normal, and gradually faded into the background.

But then, I added shelves to a closet, and fighting with piles of clothes in laundry baskets became a joyful flip through a row of hanging shirts and nicely folded pants on smooth wooden shelves. Another thrill! For another few weeks.

On and on these small upgrades went, each one accomplished by my own two hands, so that I got the satisfaction of a job well done, and also lived in a house that was constantly getting just a bit better every week.

Looking back, this has been so much better than just moving into a pre-made, perfect, fancy house that somebody else built for me, and doing it this way has also saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars at the same time. And even if you’re not a carpenter yourself, you can get the same benefits by understanding the human psychology at work here.

Hacking Hedonic Adaptation.

You may recall me cautioning you in this long-ago MMM Classic, to avoid buying yourself fancy shit, because the thrill of every new life upgrade – whether it is a nicer dishwasher or a faster Mercedes – always wears off, and your overall life happiness returns to exactly where it was. It’s quite an un-intuitive result, but if you watch yourself over time, you will notice it is uncannily accurate.

For example, I started this blog seven years ago in 2011, and distinctly remember being very happy with life, even way back then. Sure, I had problems just like everyone else, but on balance it was still a great life, because I was already pressing most or all of the actual buttons for human happiness

Some of the recipe for happiness (a slide from my WDS talk)

Since then, I have stumbled into a few upgrades:

  • A nicer house
  • A nicer bike (several, actually)
  • A nicer car
  • A nicer dishwasher
  • Internet fame
  • Several times more money than I had before
  • A really fun new business (the MMM-HQ coworking space)
  • And many, many other nicer things (clothes, electronic gadgets, interesting trips, and so on)

And yet, I’m still not really any happier than before, sitting here right at this moment. My life looks more prestigious and luxurious on paper, but since I was already pretty damned happy with life before, there was not much to improve.

This brings up a strange paradox. Because I also remember feeling quite giddy and thrilled with each of these upgrades as I made them. Those happy feelings were genuine. What Gives?

The Happiness Bump

The phenomenon at work was the temporary thrill of a new life upgrade. If we were to sketch it out on paper, it would look like this:

The Short-term Happiness Bump from lifestyle upgrades

As you can see, you make the upgrade, and you do get some genuine thrills for a short time.

The key thing to know about your happiness is that you have a ‘baseline’ level. Some of it is genetically inherited, but you can also have a strong effect on it yourself, by pressing the genuine happiness buttons in the diagram above.

Most lifestyle upgrades (cars, dishwashers, or even my new toilet paper holder) do not press these buttons, unless they truly address a shortfall in your previous life.

If your dishwasher was broken and tormenting you every day, then an upgrade may feel quite meaningful. But if the three year lease simply expired on your still-nearly-new Mercedes and you went to the dealer to swap it for an even newer model, you will likely get a far less significant buzz – because the old car was probably not causing you daily pain.

In the best possible outcome, you might make a life change that helps you gain new skills, increase your health, or improve your life’s core relationships. This could stretch out the shaded “Actual Benefit” part of the graph to be much longer, in the extreme cases for your whole life.

But in the typical outcome, most of us make changes that produce only a short bump, and then may even come back to haunt us with a payback time (which I labeled the “debt hangover” in the picture). Anything that puts you into debt, makes you less healthy or otherwise compromises your ability to live a happy life fits into this category.

Putting it into Practice

Your job as a wise, badass Human is to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and then arrange your life to make the best of things. The temptation to pursue  shiny but useless upgrades is one of our biggest weaknesses.  So try the following hacks:

  • Consider each potential change (whether it is a purchase, a trip, or a lunch out at a restaurant) from the perspective of one year in the future. How much better will your life be in one year, if you make this decision right now?
  • Delay everything and space it out as much as possible. The anticipation of a treat often provides at least as much joy as the consummation. Simply doubling your waiting period will cut your spending on this stuff in half. 
  • By cutting your upgrades into smaller pieces (as I did with the piecemeal home construction), you get to experience the thrill more often.
  • Put your priority on upgrades that remove a strong daily negative or a barrier to happiness. Keep your existing cars, clothes, and furniture if they still work. But make a list of stuff that taunts and torments you every day – a messy basement or garage, perhaps, or a clunky bike or kitchen faucet. Since you use these things every day, you’ll get lasting satisfaction if you upgrade them to reliable, beautiful, painless-to-own condition.
  • Find ways to modify each potential upgrade so that it presses more of your happiness buttons. Make it more challenging, do things that require you to learn or accomplish something first, choose things that allow you to create or strengthen friendships, and choose the healthier options out of any alternatives you are given.
  • Use your temptation to buy or consume new things as a habit trigger: catch yourself in the moment of weakness (because this happens automatically and frequently), and use this to do something good for you instead. For example, every time I walk by my fridge and gaze longingly at the handle, thinking of pulling out a cold beer, I am reminded to go out to my back patio and do 100 push-ups instead. In really disciplined times (like the last few months for me), I back this up by also not keeping any beer in the house. But even if the end result is a bubbly reward, I have improved the reward bump by packaging in a permanent benefit (fitness) with the otherwise very short term reward of a drink.
  • And finally, keep a list of your top life priorities on your fridge door, or your work computer monitor, or somewhere else that you see it many times per day.  Stuff like better friendships, better parenting, health, financial independence, happiness, personal growth. Looking at this list before you decide to do anything – whether it’s planning a lunch or moving to a new house, can serve as a surprisingly powerful anchor to help you fine tune your happiness bumps – stretching out the good parts and eliminating the hangovers.

Happy Hacking!

In the comments: which life upgrades have you made that ended up producing neutral results or even regret, and which ones have provided more lasting happiness?

  • Chris April 10, 2018, 12:38 pm

    The best life upgrades we’ve had that have provided lasting happiness have been the trips we’ve taken as a family. We’re now through 47 of the 50 United States with our daughters (with a goal to hit the remaining three before they graduate college).

    The investment in our relationships, the memories we’ve created, and the personal growth we’ve gone through in handling the unknown will last a lifetime and were worth every penny!

    • Gordo April 10, 2018, 3:50 pm

      Agreed, took my family on a road trip across the country last year, PA to CA and back (23 states). The memories will last a lifetime. Did lots of camping, visited so many national parks (Mt. St. Helens, Redwoods, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Badlands, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Oregon Trail, many others), it really didn’t cost much either (national parks pass).

      I think spending time on interesting hobbies or new types of experiences is also a good thing.

    • Evan April 10, 2018, 7:53 pm

      Plus if you figure out credit card churning, travel can be pretty inexpensive. I’ll often visit friends around the country using miles, crash at their place, and have a blast. Since the flight is free-ish and I have a place to stay, these trips aren’t that much more expensive than say an adventurous weekend at home.

      Travel can be a great bang for your buck!

      • List in Spaces November 26, 2018, 1:50 pm

        Credit card hacking is one way another way is to go where it’s cheap. Wife and I spent 10 days in Switzerland half board (breakie dinner) for less than what you usually spend on a nights hotel. It was close but not in the super touristy but more expensive area.

        Google flights is another one, seems some insanely good deals if your open minded.

        Package deals are another one!

    • Matt April 11, 2018, 4:55 pm

      It’s probably gonna be unpopular, but I disagree with he idea that travel is the solution. It takes a lot of resources to travel and removes your focus from the community you actually live in. I feel like it’s a complex enough issue that I wrote a whole blog post on it. https://rampantdiscourse.com/stop-wasting-your-money-on-fancy-experiences/

      • Ellie C April 12, 2018, 9:34 am

        Controversial perhaps, but it really is a complex issue. My husband and I love to travel. We recognize that it takes a certain amount of money and time to do so. I also wrestle with the fact that flying around the planet in large jets and consuming resources, whether in a hotel or aboard a ship, is not environmentally friendly. However, there is nothing wrong with removing one’s focus from the immediate surroundings from time to time. It has expanded my view of what’s possible, what is the best way to live, and given me an appreciation for what I already have.

        Some of the most contented, well-adjusted and ecologically-minded people I know do not travel. They are deeply rooted where they live. A part of me wants to be like them but there is still that travel itch wanting to be scratched. If the oil apocalypse comes, I could settle down on a farm and work my butt off growing more of my own food and raising chickens. We all find our path based on our own idea of what makes a good life.

      • Aretina April 16, 2018, 9:00 pm

        Hi Matt, having just made my biggest purchase in months (plane tix from Wisconsin to California) I had to read your post and I really enjoyed it. I have two young kids who are becoming aware that many of their classmates spend Christmas or Spring break in Orlando. It seems to be the thing to do, even in our little neck of the woods. Thanks for reminding me how sensible stay-cationing and local travel is and how a little creativity can make for great, inexpensive experiences. And you are so right about family visits- I just bought a ticket to see my sister on the west coast and can’t wait!

      • Marie May 15, 2018, 7:55 am

        I completely agree, Matt. I used to travel extensively and then realized that it wasn’t providing me much value at pretty high cost.

    • Wood fire April 13, 2018, 7:10 am

      I am actually starting a road trip in about 3 hours. Hitting the road with my GF. Chicago to Santa Fe New Mexico. Will he crashing at friends and sleeping in the Subaru along the way. Even those quiet moments together are some of the best there are. A good resource is Roadtrippers.com allows you to see fun things along your route and calculate approximate time and gas costs.

  • Mixed Money Arts April 10, 2018, 12:46 pm

    Best life upgrades for us have always been hobby-related. The fiancé and I are really into photography and videography so new software and cameras have been our thing. As for neutral/regretful upgrades – video games, new computers, new phones….

  • Lily April 10, 2018, 12:46 pm

    Sometimes when I’m writing about our frugal, simple, living I think to myself…I wonder if someone’s out there going,

    “She’s lying. Her toilet paper is 1-ply. No one can be happy living like this.”

    I guess all I have is my word that: Ohhh yes we are happy simply like this. Slow, delay, small upgrades keeps things interesting. But I don’t need to hit level 10 Max on that.

    “The anticipation of a treat often provides at least as much joy as the consummation.”

    We hung up 3 paintings we bought at garage sales this weekend. It’s making our walls look mighty nice and fancy. That’s an upgrade. And the 3 framed paintings cost us no more than $15 for all 3 and we have something nice to stare at. We delayed getting frames until we found them at a respectable quality and price. Now they’re pieces with storied behind it.

  • steve poling April 10, 2018, 12:47 pm

    I wonder, given your observation that these upgrades provide a short happiness boost followed by a return to your previous level of happiness. I wonder if it works the opposite way. Voluntarily, take on something painful/unpleasant so as to inure yourself to it, and repeat the process long-term to see if this has a along-term impact on happiness-level. Since each privation is voluntary, you can terminate the experiment at any time.

    • DC April 10, 2018, 12:54 pm

      I don’t know what’s the original article/study but people that have a great boost in their lifes (winning lottery or something like that) take the same amount of time to return to a normal happiness state as a person who have sudden bad experiences (losing a limb for instance). It’s more or less the same thing.

    • Matt April 10, 2018, 4:46 pm

      I think that depends very heavily on the nature of the bad thing. Most depressed people aren’t depressed because of a mere physiological problem. They’re depressed because their life sucks in one dimension or another. More mildly, long commutes in heavy traffic suck and they might become slightly more tolerable with time, but the general consensus is they never stop sucking and you’re going to be meaningfully less happy because of it.

      • Jordan April 11, 2018, 2:40 pm

        This is an interesting point, I have noticed that it is very easy to get used to something difficult. I.e. biking to work every day even if it’s a drag on the rainy days. (or more importantly, the third rainy day)

        But I guess that falls more into the category of something that still feels meaningful, adding obstacles for yourself to overcome.

        I think the crappy commute (and maybe other kinds of bad things) may not result in the inverse argument being true. Especially in the commute case, you are kind of tacking on that “debt hangover” up front. It will suck extra at the beginning and return to moderate suck later, but it still is a drain on your money, your time, and your health.

        Maybe the analogy holds up better with a bad thing that is a single event rather than an ongoing pattern…

      • Jonathan April 12, 2018, 6:26 pm

        One of the biggest life upgrades I’ve ever made was switching jobs to eliminate my car clown commute. I still drive the stretch of road to my old job once in a while, but now it’s only on my way to visit friends or vacation. Even though I upgraded 7+ years ago, I still get a surge of happiness every time I drive past my old workplace and realize how easy my bus commute is now. The upgrade thrill is certainly reduced after many years, but it’s still there.

        tl;dr – An effective way to lengthen the upgrade thrill is to occasionally remind yourself of your shitty pre-upgrade lifestyle.

        • Dave April 29, 2018, 12:53 am

          I notice that too. After years of trading a ridiculous commute, for less home space, at least twice a week, I find myself spontaneously being thrilled at my 9 minute commute home.

          I wonder if that’s because it’s meaningful happiness, hitting the freedom button rather than a short lived consumption button.

    • uberartist April 10, 2018, 6:24 pm

      I really like this idea. And it reminds me.. if something goes wrong or breaks, it can be like camping…. or especially backpacking. You cant possibly worry too much about stuff when the amount you have is a little bit limited.

      I have been experimenting with turning nervousness into excitement and cold shower s into very refreshing on a hot day (and I live in a hot climate). I need to find more experiments.

    • AlDC April 11, 2018, 10:42 am

      Stoicism, yo.

      Look for his post about it, one of my all time faves.

    • Jenny Wren April 11, 2018, 12:53 pm

      Congratulations, you have rediscovered stoicism. Classical stoics used to put themselves though period of self-imposed deprivation – fasting or sleeping on the ground or not wrapping up when it’s cold. By doing so, they could reassure themselves that they were capable of living without life’s little comforts and also be in a better position to appreciate what they had when they stopped depriving themselves. Win-win.

    • Lauren April 11, 2018, 3:18 pm

  • Snoopgroggygrog April 10, 2018, 12:47 pm

    I’ve this week upgraded my journey to work – cycling all the way. My other options are driving (stress, cost, I hate commuting by car), cycling to the train station, then a short train journey (this feels like luxury right now! a minor cost).

    It’s a 10 mile ride there and back (so 20 miles overall), so lots of potential benefits in terms of health, but longer and more organisation required for clothing, showers etc.

    In the future my bike will certainly wear out – it’s 20 years old already – so I look forward to the benefit of a lighter quicker ride, but with the cost of course associated with that. Any bike costs are far outweighed by savings from not driving or catching a train.

    Hope this is useful!

    • P Burgos April 11, 2018, 9:26 am

      You might want to look into adding pedal assist for your commute. I know that it would lessen the health benefits of the ride, but it might make it a bit less sweaty and more pleasant overall (and hence more sustainable long term).

      • Dylan October 23, 2018, 8:02 pm

        Ebike has been really good purchase for me. I don’t have a car, and on days when I am tired or sick I can still carry cargo around the city without as much negative impact on health as my regular bike. Sometimes exercise is not healthy, and the ebike is there for me on those occasions. Other times it lets me get to a jobsite with a little more energy in the tank.

    • Wade April 17, 2018, 2:40 pm

      Check out a Brompton folding bike. Not cheap, but so well built and fun. Engineering excellence!

    • Chris June 27, 2018, 11:16 am

      I have a similar commute: about 8 miles to train station, 16 mile train ride. Then in the afternoon its either a 21 mile ride to home, or a 16 mile train, plus 6 miles to house. I estimate that my cost per mile on bike is about ten cents. The train ride is $2.25. So the net cost for a train ride is about 65 cents, and I get to cool off, check email, work on bike, etc. When I ride the entire way home it is for exercise and enjoyment, not money or time savings. Driving this route (have not done in 9 years), would incur driving costs of about $27 per day, plus lost time since driving take longer, loss of exercise, and loss of sanity!

  • Tawcan April 10, 2018, 12:47 pm

    I’m with Chris on this one. The best life upgrades we’ve had that have provided lasting happiness have been family trips that all of us have taken as a family. We’ve done a few international trips and our most recent trip to Maui was amazing (reduced cost significantly thanks to travel hacking). We’ll be making a month long trip to Denmark this summer so the kids can spend more time with my wife’s family. Those memories will last forever and is very well worth money spent.

  • Adam April 10, 2018, 12:47 pm

    Funny that you call out dishwashers. We bought a fancy-pants Bosch, with a third upper rack just for silverware and shiny stainless steel facade. That was eighteen months ago. Since then, every time I load it or turn it on or walk past it while it’s quietly running or it chimes softly to let me know it’s done, I think about how nice it is to have an appliance that does its job properly and effectively (unlike the busted unrepairable heap it replaced).

    So to me, lasting happiness comes not necessarily through acquisition of stuff but through consistent appreciation for one’s circumstances.

    (To be fair, we put approx the cost of that dishwasher into our retirement plans each week… and that feels pretty good too!)

    • Marc April 10, 2018, 1:23 pm

      Haha, its funny you say that. My house came with a Bosch dishwasher and I love the thing. We are thinking of moving and I was thinking of how my next house probably won’t have one as nice. It just works so well, and that upper rack is great for small things that you can’t put in other dishwashers :).

      • w22w April 18, 2018, 9:57 pm

        Got a 22 year old kenmore dishwasher, loud af, but does a great job. I have seen in action these silent machines you speak of… impressive.. I am enjoying the thought of owning such silent precision one day, when (if?) Kenny poops out.

    • jason April 10, 2018, 2:49 pm

      Yes, That quiet bit of german engineering (that has not required me to pull it from under the counter in the 6 years since I installed it) has succeeded in not frustrating me every time I run it.

    • Mette April 11, 2018, 4:14 pm

      I love my 8-year-old Siemens dishwasher (with a silverware rack), too. It’s like a faithful old friend, not terribly exciting, but 100% reliable and never any fuss. I wish I could say the same about the drama queen that’s my oven.

    • Jennifer Arrow April 11, 2018, 8:13 pm

      Our recent kitchen remodel consisted of so many of the hedonic “upgrades” mentioned in this thread and in Pete’s post.

      (1) New extra-deep sink with good faucet with spray option
      (2) Fancy quiet lovely Bosch dishwasher to replace the cracked plastic roach-infested piece of trash we’d had for 10 years
      (3) Formica countertops that are easy to wipe down and sanitize instead of cracked tile with filthy grout.
      (4) Repainting a couple of the walls implicated in the counter replacement.

      It didn’t cost a fortune. We kept the appliances, the cabinets, the floor. It has significantly brightened my daily work in that room. I have hanging plants and a big fern under one window against the newly painted blue walls, and it makes me smile.

      It was a good investment.

    • Chris April 12, 2018, 4:37 am

      I agree on the appreciation of one’s circumstances helping lasting happiness.

      I get a sense of amazement sometimes when looking at the glowing box that shows pictures from far away (even though I know how it works), or the fast moving boxes that get us around the country, or through the sky.

      I can remember how things were before I built the Kitchen, or before we got things replaced, and recall that looking at the new one. Forgetting these things is a choice (that most of us make).

      And I get a sense of optimism each time I watch a Hans Rosling video (or Gapminder now).

    • Bill April 17, 2018, 10:46 am

      We recently downsized (right-sized, really) from a house into an apartment. I treated myself to an amazing Italian cappuccino machine and grinder that makes better espresso than anything available in our city. Not only is my wife grinning from ear to ear every morning with her latte in bed, but friends regularly drop by for a cup of the best java in town. An expensive purchase, but one that will payback huge in the coming years.

      • Yukon May 11, 2018, 12:13 pm

        What brand or model of your cappuccino machine?

      • MTC May 12, 2018, 12:43 am

        +1 on the Espresso machine. I bought my first in 2009 as a reward for a professional achievement, a Vibiemme, for about $1700. It was a good entry level machine, but a bit loud. All manual controls, not like many of the cheaper ones that are automated. I enjoyed it everyday for three years, had friends over, developed skill with it, highly recommended.

        In 2012 when I moved back overseas to 220v I gave it to my sister who still uses and enjoys it daily. I bought a higher quality German brand, ECM for $2700, which has provided daily joy now for 6 years.

        Agree with the happiness bump that each machine gave, and maybe it’s partially the caffeine, but the bump has not left yet on this purchase. I’m usually frugal, but I’ve had zero regret about the two expensive purchases of a quality, manual espresso machine.

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 12, 2018, 4:44 pm

          Wow, and here I was thinking I am fancy with my $50 steam-pressure-only espresso machine for the last six years!

      • Carrie Willard July 2, 2018, 6:38 am

        This is how I feel about my Vitamix! I put off buying this appliance for years, buying cheap crappy blenders that would break or not really do what they’re supposed to. Hubby got me one for our anniversary a couple of years ago and I sometimes use it MULTIPLE times a DAY.

    • Carrie Willard July 2, 2018, 6:36 am

      I feel the same! As a housefrau with 7 kiddos (I also run a business from home and homeschool), I say a silent thankful prayer EVERY TIME I run my washing machine. Like, “thank you that I don’t have to beat all these clothes against a rock with harsh lye soap that will burn my hands! Back-breaking grind work is why women used to die around menopause!”


      Gratitude and mindfulness. I also love to read Laura Ingalls’ books aloud with my kids to remind myself that thank God I don’t have to make headcheese.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher April 10, 2018, 12:50 pm

    I like the idea of piecing out life upgrades so you’re able to appreciate them as they happen. We’ve been in our home for 1.5 years and did a renovation. We did *everything* at once and it was overwhelming once it was done. It’s easy to take great things for granted when you’re inundated with them.

    It’s true that we all reach a “happiness” ceiling in regard to lifestyle and comfort. Until we reach inside ourselves we won’t see any gains in happiness.

  • Karen April 10, 2018, 12:52 pm

    The biggest lifestyle upgrade that I can imagine–and of which I never seem to tire–is having control over my own destiny (to the extent that anyone can, of course). That’s worth more than all the stuff in the world. Plus my husband. It’s been six years and I still find him delightful :-) Ditto the kids. Maybe that just means I have a high happiness set-point?

  • Matt April 10, 2018, 12:53 pm

    I got a $40 bidet attachment for our toilet a few years ago and it has been life-changing. Best consumer purchase I ever made.

    • Karen April 11, 2018, 12:21 pm

      My favorite comment so far!!!

      • Katie April 11, 2018, 4:26 pm

        I have one too. Seriously if you had poop anywhere else on your body would a dry piece of toilet tissue suffice?!

        • KSco April 12, 2018, 1:24 am

          I’m so happy to read this. I live in India where this is the norm and have stressed about moving back home to Canada and returning to the horror of dry wiping. Thrilled to learn that I can install a bum gun there. Also good to know that the correct term is “bidet attachment.”

          • The Vigilante April 13, 2018, 6:26 pm

            When it comes to language, correct is a matter of perspective. Your description seems more…apt.

          • Andrea Graves April 15, 2018, 8:26 pm

            I love it. A bum gun!

        • Andreas April 12, 2018, 5:28 am

          wow…what a revelation!

          I must have one..now! That should be in the bidet salespitch!

    • Quez April 12, 2018, 2:27 am

      Ahah. Every bathroom in european houses has one of those. Because of that I’m not has happy has you for having mine. Weird, isn’t it?

      • kruidigmeisje April 13, 2018, 5:52 am

        Please let me (NL, EU travelling experience) update you: a lot of French and Italian houses has one of those. EU is a bit larger, and the rest is very much like the US as far as toilets are concerned.

    • MattW April 12, 2018, 6:36 am

      I’ve been considering one of these for a long time, weighing the hedonistic high of a hyperclean heinie every day (!) vs. the expense ($40 is not chump change). I think I have my answer.

      • Carrie Willard July 2, 2018, 6:40 am

        One can get a “cloth diaper sprayer” attachment for less than $20 on Amazon and use it for the same purposes!

    • Andrew April 18, 2018, 5:15 pm

      I was going to say the same! With a bidet I feel like a king – Every.Day!

  • Olivia April 10, 2018, 12:54 pm

    This is really smart. I’ll have to be honest, I guess most things don’t make me super happy for more than a few days!

    If you’ve read the power of habit, I think it’d go nicely with the second half of the article. It’s definitely true that you need to go through the whole cue -> habit -> reward trio and figure out what your cues are in order to get into non-spendy habits!

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance April 10, 2018, 12:56 pm

    Wow you must have a talent for engineering and building things. If we had to do one tenth of what you did at our house, hubby and I would get into multiple fights and might end up moving into our own separate place. Either of us are good at fixing things. House repairs really stress me out.

    However, I also have a friend who loves fixing things around the house. He and his wife are even thinking about buying fixer-uppers to upgrade and sell. Happiness, I guess, varies for different people depending on what they are good at/curious about.

    I’m glad your house projects are going well!

    • Kayote April 16, 2018, 1:34 pm

      I’d rather spend my time in a garden. Tasty food, less waste, cheaper. I am very frustrated that a flood is forcing me to spend my time ripping drywall not putting a garden into our new house. I did not have any desire to redo the basement and now my garden is delayed at least a year so we’ll be spending way more at the farmer’s market.

      I am finding no joy in tearing my basement walls to shreds. While the end result might be better than what we had, the old version was not a pain point (til it flooded, yes we’re addressing that as well) and the “upgrade” is a major pain point. The amount of tediousness required to do it right is not in my nature.

      I am stressed just thinking about trying to decide on colors and layout in putting the basement back together. *sigh*

      Someday, I will grow food again. I will grow lots and lots of vegetables. We will have a freezer full of home grown veggies all year long!

      Small fixes around the house? Fine. Big things? Ugh. So much else I’d rather do that is also beneficial.

  • Budget on a Stick April 10, 2018, 12:56 pm

    I think our house and one car have provided neutral and sometimes regretful emotions.

    The car we bought new so I quickly regretted buying it once I started our debt free journey. The house has given us mixed emotions. I always get a bump when doing my own work but get pulled back down when I think of all the other things we want to do.

    Right now our reoccurring source of happiness bumps is watching our kids grow up. The baby is taking his first steps and we get so excited at each milestone.

    • Jonathan April 12, 2018, 6:31 pm

      I think you’ve hit on one of the biggest reasons that people (myself included) love raising our kids. Watching them grow up in frequent but small increments gives us constant happiness bumps for years. You never get tired of watching them change, because the changes are always different.

    • Andrea Graves April 15, 2018, 8:28 pm

      There is nothing more exciting than that, ever!

  • Dicey April 10, 2018, 12:57 pm

    I finally got married for the first time at the ancient age of 54. That was six years ago. It just keeps getting better. No hedonistic adaptation there, I’m happy to report.

    • CK April 11, 2018, 7:54 pm

      Good for you, Dicey! Your comment put a smile on my face.

  • Bee Roberts April 10, 2018, 12:59 pm

    Two purchases that give me immense satisfaction:

    1) Kids bike trailer instead of a second car. Every time I use it I feel smug at the fitness gained, money saved, and exhaust fumes not contributed to my fellow human being’s lungs.

    2) My heated airer. Am morally opposed to tumble driers, but with kids and an active lifestyle, not having nappies / sports clothing / general laundry hanging around the house gives me SO MUCH JOY.

    Also, anything I have mended instead of turfing out and rebuying gives me a smile every time I notice it.

    Sometimes wise purchases really do give disproportionately.

    But there’s a dozen little things I’ve bought recently that I can’t claim the same rewards from…

    • Myles April 10, 2018, 3:21 pm

      Similar to your #1, a couple years ago we sold our second car (largely due to this blog’s influence) and about a year after that I bought an electric bike. We also bought a used $75 two-seater kids trailer for the bike. The e-bike gives me daily enduring joy because it encourages me to commute via bike even in the winter months (while the alternatives don’t provide fresh air and exercise). Only owning one car provides me continuous joy as a reminder of how badass our family is capable of being. And the bike trailer provides continuous joy by allowing our family to get outside together, get exercise, and traveling to places without using a car is satisfying on its own.

      The thing I do from time to time that seems neutral or negative is going out for a meal or a drink with friends. The conversation and laughter is always satisfying but the food and drink and atmosphere isn’t any more pleasant than it would be in someone’s backyard or basement and it comes at ~4x the cost. Having said that, I participate to maintain the relationships and get the memories of good company.

  • Alex April 10, 2018, 1:07 pm

    I think another hack you could mention is to temporarily deprive yourself of some item or comfort whose happiness bump has worn off. Whenever I go backpacking for a few days, the experience of taking that first hot shower or eating a big juicy burger when I get back is almost indescribably awesome. Do this with enough regularity and I think you could keep getting repeat bumps from everyday things you might otherwise take for granted, like plumbing and fresh food.

    • RH April 10, 2018, 4:02 pm

      I do this, and it’ crazy. I started a cold-shower habit last summer. Was tough at first but once I got into it I really enjoy them. Now, I can cycle hot and cold showers and each time is a boost reward to my feel-good sensors. Sounds crazy, but I imagine beefing this up to other pleasures in life and it could be a very rewarding experience.

    • Lisa April 12, 2018, 7:02 am

      This brought a wry smile to my face. About 15 years ago I lived in a van for six weeks, travelling round New Zealand. I have felt stupendously grateful every day since to have running water and electricity right there whenever I need it!

    • Jonathan April 12, 2018, 6:35 pm

      My power went out for 24 hours during a recent storm. For days afterward I got happiness bumps from just having electricity.

    • Chris April 24, 2018, 8:58 am

      For me its randonner, i.e. skitouring in the Alps close to Munich. You walk up for hours with skins attached to your skis, only to sleep in a hut close to the top of the mountain in one room with 20 other people who have made a similar journey to get there. Food rarely tastes so good as dinner on a day like this, the next morning we start at 4 am to climb safely to a peak and ski down before the snow gets too warm. After such a weekend (or in summer same huts but traveling not with skis but with the mountainbike), where everything you need is carried in your backpack and you move through most beautiful mountains at a leisurely speed I am forever grateful for my health, for my comfortable bed at home and a hot shower in my bath. Still, too long in the comfortzone I need to get back to the mountains. There life costs next to nothing, has no comforts, actually is sometimes even painful (especially after many hours in the saddle) but wonderfully grounding for the rest of the year.

  • Adam Zerner April 10, 2018, 1:08 pm

    One quibble: my understanding is that hedonic adaptation theory says that we tend to return to our baseline after negative events too (not just positive ones). And so in the The Short-term Happiness Bump from lifestyle upgrades graph, I would show the Debt Hangover area getting smaller over time.

    • Mike April 10, 2018, 2:27 pm

      Bingo! Good catch, Adam!

    • wynr April 11, 2018, 12:16 am

      But the bad feelings only go away once the debt is gone.

    • vis April 11, 2018, 6:46 am

      I think of the debt that I took on before adopting Mustachianism into my life. School debt specifically. Each time I do I feel a happiness drop or sink. I wish I could go back and talk to younger myself for a few minutes. Perhaps I need to change my mentality about that debt. I am quite aware of the effect it has had on my freedom to be more myself rather than chasing the buck. For me the debt hangover is more like a series of repeating happiness drops that hasn’t gone away for a long time.

      • Sarah April 15, 2018, 7:37 pm

        Vis, this is totally normal. Just before we finished grad school and moved to a better situation my inlaws warned me that we might feel sudden despair and depression in our new city … not because it was a bad place, but because we would wonder why we didn’t do this sooner. They were right. Once we moved we felt like idiots. Basically, why were we so dumb and why did we wait so long to change our lives? And why did we take on so much debt? Anyway, Mustachianism has helped us a ton to change our perspective, though it’s still hard. I suppose it’s only natural to take awhile to get out of debt, after all it took us years to get in it. Be patient with yourself. If anything, you are in good company. So many of us took on massive school loans and regret it.

    • Michael April 11, 2018, 10:57 pm

      If debt were a one time event, then yes you’d rebound to your general happiness level. But debt is constant until you pay it off.

      I grew up in a family that had too much debt for too long. I saw my parents be happy. But I also saw them stress out regularly about their debt.

      The interest charges happen every month, and the tighter cash flow will restrict your future options. You may forget about it for a while, but it’ll be there stressing you out. You may not feel stressed today, but tomorrow? When you see the next interest charge and minimum payment due? When you realize you can’t afford something you want because of the debt?

    • Jeff April 12, 2018, 4:47 am

      Using this line of reasoning and taking it to the extreme (a technique Marilyn vos Savant used to reason about the best strategy for playing Let’s Make a Deal) , the best way to guarantee happiness would be to go into debt at a rate of 99% of your income as soon as you can, and pay it off over time so that you are always be hedonically adapting upward over your lifespan. Somehow, this sounds like nonsense to me. The stress from being in this debtor position for an extended period of time would not result in happiness. If debt is not good for increasing happiness over the long run, then it is also not good for increasing happiness over the short run (although in a smaller proportion). The simple secret to happiness is no debt and the sooner people experiment with that idea, the sooner they will find true happiness.

      • DebtFreeLife April 13, 2018, 11:25 am

        Instead of going into debt at a rate of 99% of your income and paying it off, you could put that money towards savings. Watching your savings grow gives a happiness boost that can be habit forming in a very positive way!! This is true hedonic upward adaptation!!

  • The FIRE Engine April 10, 2018, 1:10 pm

    I try to stagger my hedonic spikes with a purchase waiting list; if I want something, I’ll put it on the list with the expected price.

    Some things end up getting taken off the list if I later decide I don’t want them any more, and this means the ones I end up buying are far more likely to increase my happiness for longer. I also tend to be able to get them for a better price than originally anticipated.

    The most recent purchase is a lightweight two man tent (arrives tomorrow). I’ve been wanting a quality tent that won’t break the bank for a long time, and I finally found one with great specs, great reviews, and a great price! I’m sure that this will bring me even more happiness and for longer, because of the time and thought that went into purchasing it. (That, and wild camping is badass!)

  • Financially Free, Pharm.D. April 10, 2018, 1:13 pm

    My wife and I had very similar conversations as we recently decided to buy a 5 year old house instead of building new, as was the original plan. I believe we are just as happy with this house, and saved quite a bit of money doing so as well. Delaying upgrades and cutting the upgrades into smaller pieces are definitely hacks we’re putting into use now, as well as making as many of the jobs DIY as possible. Any advice with painting high walls/ceilings? 😅

    Next up are new blinds, home gym mirrors, and living room furniture, hopefully by 2019 ha!

  • Will Bloomfield April 10, 2018, 1:16 pm

    MMM said: “In the best possible outcome, you might make a life change that helps you gain new skills, increase your health, or improve your life’s core relationships. This could stretch out the shaded “Actual Benefit” part of the graph to be much longer, in the extreme cases for your whole life.”

    My family has been learning the piano the last 7 months with Piano Marvel online piano lessons. It’s amazing how doable this is, and it likewise gives an amazing amount of satisfaction as you gradually advance. I highly recommend learning a musical instrument as a providing an enduring increase in happiness; and with Piano Marvel, I’ve finally found the easiest and most efficient way to achieve this. For more details, here’s my blog review of Piano Marvel: http://sacredartseries.blogspot.com/2017/09/recommendation-online-piano-lessons.html

  • David Abineri April 10, 2018, 1:20 pm

    Can you elaborate on your thoughts about “HIGH CEILINGS”. From an efficiency point of view, it seems that in winter one is spending money to heat much of a room where you cannot be. It would seem that 8 foot ceilings have a distinct advantage over higher ceilings in that you are heating where you live. I have never seen a study on this but it has always seemed to me that high ceilings can be very wasteful.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 10, 2018, 4:28 pm

      Yup, this is just one example of my relatively luxurious life which should serve to counteract the arguments that the MMM family represents “extreme frugality”.

      High ceilings (12.5 feet at the high point in this case) will tend to pool a bit of the hot air up near the top, resulting in a slightly higher leakage through your ceiling and a very small increase in building surface area as well. But it’s not a huge effect, and I compensated by making the ceiling/roof REALLY well insulated: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/05/01/beating-the-stock-market-with-diy-insulation/

      The reason I did this is because it is glorious to feel bright, open space around you. And I put windows on the South side as high as I could squeeze them, so all your views in my house are of sunshine, trees and clouds. The added solar gain also provides enough free heat to pay for the high ceilings.

      • Phil R-W April 11, 2018, 8:28 am

        When we moved into our house that happens to have a ceiling fan in each room, I did an experiment. I put a temperature sensor on the top of the wall and another at the bottom of the wall. There was a difference of several degrees (C). So I programmed the house to run the fans on low in winter in order to get all of that warm, expensive air down to ground level. I believe it has saved us money and increased our comfort.

      • Frugal Lizard April 11, 2018, 12:08 pm

        As I recall you are also heating your floor surface with radiant heat so it is a much more efficient way of heating the space. Having a comfy warm floor offsets that great deal of air volume of the high ceilings.

      • Anonymous April 11, 2018, 3:38 pm

        Thanks for the clarification…I somehow thought you were talking about soaring McMansion-style cathedral ceilings.

      • Angie unduplicated April 12, 2018, 9:25 am

        High ceilings are practical in the Deep South on days when air conditioning is not used, and with an attic fan and/or vents. In the past, they were combined with central halls and transom windows for additional air circulation.

        When you open windows and turn on the exhaust fan at daybreak, cool air is pulled in at floor level and the hot air rises and circulates out through the hall. It is quite possible to air condition on 90+ degree days for only a few hours and turn off the air after dark.

        In winter, wear warm clothes, stay active. Keep insulation and weatherstripping in good repair.

        Not practical, though, where freezes are a regular occurrence.

  • DLcygnet April 10, 2018, 1:22 pm

    Lifestyle Upgrades…

    Regret: Excessive or rich food – I regret it every time I step on the scale. An L-shaped kitchen where an open dishwasher blocks access to drawer or cabinet space. Any fitness related purchase that sits unused in my house. Any and all tech addiction behaviors and purchases (Games, TV, etc) that lead to avoiding chores, yard work, date night, family time, or any other healthy activity. A Dodge Charger – my husband spent the entire life of that car in and out of the shop getting the sunroof repaired.

    Neutral: Kids swing set – it makes me happy when they play on it and laugh, but living in the Seattle area there are a lot of rainy days where it stands unused, taunting me. Learning to play the flute – the instrument sits unused in a closet now. Serving in the military – free college, good pay & experience, kept me fit; a very jock-centric, bureaucratic, and frustrating organization to get anything done. A super economical and fuel efficient corolla – great on gas costs & reliability, not a lot of room for tall family. A large garage – more room to store seasonal hobby stuff; more room to hide junk. Husband’s new Subaru Outback – great cargo space (got a whole mattress in!), better reliability (the sunroof doesn’t break every time he uses it!); I think he spends more time cursing at Android Auto failing to sync to his phone than he does enjoying it, though.

    Lasting Happiness: Cats. An automatic cat box that cleans itself. Kids. Teaching kids to use the bathroom by themselves. A house that was 1500 sq ft bigger than what we needed at the time (got a great deal on a short sale!); I’m grateful every time we have a new addition to the family or visitors that we don’t have to move. A laundry room that has room for folding & hanging clothes (also a sink). A lightweight laptop instead of a massive gaming rig that I can use anywhere in the house or take with me. Finding an after work swimming class at the YMCA with great people to work out with and talk to. An awesome purple bicycle & riding in the Cycle do Vine at Lake Chelan with my husband. Beating cancer. Earning 3 patents. Learning to belly dance. Teaching my 3-year-old son how to hit a thrown baseball. Learning how to build a computer from scratch with my husband by my side assisting (last night!).

  • Mr. Financial Freedom Project April 10, 2018, 1:24 pm

    Our two-car, insulated garage combined with our two current vehicles (2003 Pontiac Vibe, 2005 Chevy Aveo LS) definitely constitute the life upgrades that have provided me with the most lasting happiness.

    Living close to the vest while in college, driving used vehicles, and dating a woman (the future Mrs. FFP) who had perpetual car trouble forced me to become somewhat of a self-taught backyard mechanic in my late teens. What I lacked in skill and experience I made up for with a determination grounded in the knowledge that failure was not an option, simply because neither she nor I could afford to pay for someone else to perform the repairs.

    With no garage available, more often than not this left me on my back under a car in the limestone driveway. I don’t miss the cuts, scrapes, and bruises from laying on the rocks, the fire ants biting my legs and back, or the freezing cold and lack of feeling in my fingers caused by mid-winter oil repairs here in Michigan.

    The house we purchased after we were married has a large two-car garage (a mandatory requirement during the home-buying process!). The vehicles we drive now are still over 10 years old, but they are well-vetted, highly-regarded, Consumer Reports-recommended models. I still perform all of our own car repairs, but can now do so in the comfort of an insulated and paved garage, while needing to perform them far, far less often. The garage still brings me an immense amount of happiness!

    I would say the type of spending that provides me with the least form of lasting happiness is that of eating out. Very temporary happiness boost, more often than not while sabotaging other life goals such as fitness. We don’t do it much, but it has probably the lowest ROI on the lasting happiness scale for me.

  • That Frugal Pharmacist April 10, 2018, 1:25 pm

    I hadn’t put much thought in to it, but I think my husband may have perfected this without having put any thought in to it.

    He’s “retired” to take care of our property (and now child), and it made sense financially when we moved where we did for him to not have a job for multiple reasons.

    Anyway, he always has 20 different little projects or ideas in the works and is constantly making little tweaks and improvements indoors and out.

    I find myself getting frustrated that ideas and plans take so long. But maybe he’s actually settled on a formula for giving him the most bang for his buck and effort of keeping busy, spending little and always feeling like he’s got something he enjoys to do.

    Unlike me who would rather focus and get a project done, he’s happy to string it out for weeks. And why not really? It’s not like we were really any better or worse off in the end.

  • Chris April 10, 2018, 1:30 pm

    One of the best upgrades I’ve made was to convert an old mountain bike to an electric assist car crushing machine! I ride it on days I am not riding a pedal only bike, or about 2-3 days per week. Money savings, time savings, and sheer joy are some of the benefits derived from this upgrade. I still get a workout and the bike allows me to carry much more weight than a pedal only bike and travel much faster. I get that actual benefit bump every time I throw a leg over the top tube and roll down my driveway!

  • Mr. Freaky Frugal April 10, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Another classic MMM post!

    “In the comments: which life upgrades have you made that ended up producing neutral results or even regret, and which ones have provided more lasting happiness?”

    I used to buy lots of books but I would only read some of them. I would see those unread, sometimes out-of-date, books on my book shelf and regret having ever bought them. But since I FIREd, I only get books through the library so there is no more regret with that. :)

    The purchases that make sense to me now are related to getting rid of something that really annoys me. For instance, my apartment bedroom used to let in too much light at night even with the blinds closed. It really annoyed me and made it hard to sleep because there is lots of artificial light here in downtown Philly. I put up light blocking curtains and I still love them every night! Plus I get the benefit of better sleep.

  • David Gobel April 10, 2018, 1:40 pm

    So, we are talking about something that has not yet been defined – happiness. We feel it, and we feel its loss. But I’d love a real definition if anyone has it.

    My stab…Happiness: An emotional feeling of active well being that is self and life affirming. On an emotional spectrum above equanimity, and below Joy, highly correlating with ongoing appreciation.

  • Elbow Wilham April 10, 2018, 1:41 pm

    I bought a farm and then realized I hate farming… Bought a lot of tools and equipment (tractors). At first it was fun to drive the tractor, but it quickly became normal and I dreaded the work. But it was something I had to do to know I wouldn’t like it.

    I bought a top of the line snowboard 6 years ago and it continues to bring me much happiness.

  • Ricky April 10, 2018, 1:42 pm

    Yep, spreading out your “thrills” is the way to go. You’re challenged, you learn, you save money, and you’re just as overall happy in the end.

    I like to think that “Variety” is another necessary component to happiness. Instead of focusing on the best possible experience related to one specific activity (owning the nicest car, the fastest computer, etc.) you focus on having a variety of activities/objects to the point that you’re not focused solely on one particular thing too long. So for transportation, there’s no point in having the nicest car OR the nicest bike because you are going to ideally switch between the two. For living, there’s no point in a mansion and no point in 5 star hotels because you’re going to switch between the two and the switching brings more happiness than focusing on the “best” of anything.

  • The Luxe Strategist April 10, 2018, 1:49 pm

    I bought a lamp for $165, and it didn’t even make me happy the day it arrived. Now it mocks me every time I walk by it.

    One life upgrade that I think would make my instantly happier is buying iCloud storage. My phone’s storage been maxed out for over a year because I take a ton of pictures. So I have to delete pictures every time I want to take a new one. All I have to do is pay a couple bucks per month to make this problem go away.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 10, 2018, 4:39 pm

      Or switch to a real Android phone that allows external memory cards and/or Google Photos service which has free unlimited storage! ;-)

    • Renee April 11, 2018, 12:44 pm

      Or back up your iPhone (and photos) onto your computer just by connecting phone to computer!!! ¡Voila!

  • Jeremy Stone April 10, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Nice post, and a good reminder. I’ve gotten a little “spendy” lately and need to get some discipline back. Speaking of which, you should always keep a bunch of delicious craft beers in the fridge so you can really work on your discipline by not drinking them! :)

  • Gwen April 10, 2018, 1:54 pm

    I would say my multi-family house has been neutral, at best. I was so incredibly happy to buy it, but the hassle of owning it and all the money I’ve sank into it really soured my view.

    On the other hand, I am eagerly anticipating my trip to Seattle to see you and everyone else at Camp Mustache! That’s a big boost in happiness :)

  • Liberty April 10, 2018, 2:12 pm

    This post really made me think. Our lives have contained very few upgrades over our 11 years of marriage, except some very memorable travel.

    However, possibly the most significant downgrade, in a way, has been building a tiny house and living for free in exchange for farm chores. Definitely a series of sacrifices, challenges, learning experiences, and ultimately, growth. To date, we have saved around $50,000 that would otherwise have gone toward rent and utilities. Someday, we plan to buy a “big house” and VRBO the tiny house for additional income.

    Lifestyle downgrade today for lifestyle upgrade / financial freedom tomorrow!

  • Chris Urbaniak April 10, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Great list, MMM!

    I particularly like the “How much better will your life be in one year, if you make this decision right now?” I’ve often taken the perspective of a decade out, asking “What will my future self think?” But bringing it in helps balance the anti-delayed gratification tendencies a little more. I’ll try and do more of that :)

    To answer your question on life upgrades: I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to take several months’ of parental leave when our second child was born. The cost was obviously a reduction in income and hence a longer distance to FI, but our family used that time to build some awesome memories and experiences that we still reflect on a half-decade later.

  • MrBr April 10, 2018, 2:21 pm

    My best recent upgrade was home brewing. I make fresh beer that is superior to the fanciest of store-bought microbrews, at a fifth of the cost. I’ve made new friends at brew clubs, I make beer for friends’ weddings, and I teach others to brew. The ‘actual benefit’ bump is three years long so far, and is soon to spawn another bump. My kegerator is in the process of a DIY solar power upgrade. That project is a springboard for future off-grid upgrades. Now I just have to get back on that 100 pushups plan!

  • Accidental FIRE April 10, 2018, 2:23 pm

    For purchases, “Delay everything” works for me. Unless it’s toilet paper of course or an actual necessity. I find that with my analytical mind, time allows me to break down the actual motivating factor of why I want it, and I oftne forgo buying.

    But sometimes I don’t. I’m human too.

    And permanent happiness for me has come through spending on experiences. All I have to do if I’m down sometimes is merely think about some of my adventures in climbing or traveling the world and it helps get me out of the doldrums. Firing up the computer and going through pics is even better – instant happiness.

  • EC April 10, 2018, 2:25 pm

    I think a change brings happiness. Taking a vacation for example, I love the planning part before we get to go. It is the anticipation part of the happiness. This can go as long months. Going on the trip brings the fun as it shows you different aspect of life and you tend to appreciate things a little better when you are in a different city. I remember seeing a saying ” There is no scenery in areas you are super familiar with”. At the end of the trip, I am always surprised how much I miss my work. It is less the work itself, but more the routine that comes from my work. Knowing that my coffee mug is righ on my desk and I can walk to the copy room to get an exact perfect cup of coffee. So I get lots of happiness from the end of the a trip as well :)

  • Dave April 10, 2018, 2:28 pm

    I like the idea of spacing things out. I have found that the bumps are not 100% additive so doing things simultaneously does not give the best benefit. Plus there can be stress with doing too much at once which will reduce it even further.

  • Julie H April 10, 2018, 2:36 pm

    I think intermittent of use of ‘things’ has a bearing on happiness:
    Picture the guy with his heritage show car that he joyfully drives on the weekend. If he had to then drive it daily, the experience would quickly lose its lustre…driving an old clunker without the modern conveniences (eg power steering).
    We bought a new vacuum cleaner. Since then my DH cheerfully brings it out every couple of days with a smile on his face, commenting on how much better it is than the previous version. (However, after my initial happiness with the purchase, I now take my clean carpet for granted.)
    Holidays (with or without family) are a lot of fun at the time. The fun continues when you get home and tell people about your holiday. The happiness returns at intervals as you look at photos or something triggers a memory.

  • MJB April 10, 2018, 2:39 pm

    I can’t think of anything lately. But I can think of plenty of restaurant experiences where I wish we’d made our own dinner instead, or at least ordered a friggin’ pizza.

  • Nice joy April 10, 2018, 2:55 pm

    I moved in to my first house with a mattress on the floor and a small table and four chairs from Costco. Learning about woodworking and making furniture was very rewarding. It took me more than four years before I made all furniture for myself. The planning phase of any project was very long and was very relaxing. When I get stressed out, then I will find a project to do. Learning a new skill and putting it to work over a period saved me a lot of money and gave me a lot of happiness.

    • Andreas April 12, 2018, 6:31 am

      Nice! What would you recommend that someone start out with? A chair? I want to test my skills and learn how to make “easy” furnitures, if I like it I can always create more advanced stuff.

      • Nice Joy April 13, 2018, 1:19 pm

        A chair would be one of the difficult furniture to make consider a bench or a coffee table insted . Farm house style furniture is easy to make and cost effective, if you can use only pine and hard wood plywood from home deport . Pine is easy to work on , cheep and looks beautiful after sanding and staining. You don’t need a lot of tools…Just a miter saw preferably sliding, an orbital sander, and a power drill . Also check anawhite.com , ana has a lot of basic furniture plans…. that is where I started.

        • Sarah April 15, 2018, 7:44 pm

          I second the Ana White recommendation. Start with a bench, or her flat wall bookshelves. A lot of the pain of building is in the prepping and finishing of the wood. Those smaller projects will not kill your buzz, even as you sand for the second, third, or tenth time. And you’ll love the end result!

  • Mtb guy April 10, 2018, 2:56 pm

    A $20 bidet from Amazon. I can’t believe you still use toliet paper!

  • Nice joy April 10, 2018, 3:01 pm

    Ohh about toilet paper. It makes me happier when I don’t use the toilet paper. I am from India and never used toilet paper until I moved to the USA. Free running water is way softer than the softest brand paper.

    • Gordo April 10, 2018, 3:58 pm

      Seriously, I got one of these (https://amzn.to/2GOnJgP ) and loved it so much I put one on every toilet in the house. Eventually it also pays for itself and even profits when you consider the savings on toilet paper. Getting truly spotless clean down there and NOT shoving your hand up your butt is not just priceless, it makes me happy daily, haha.

      • Madeline April 11, 2018, 7:32 am

        I have an indelicate question. When you use the bidet and no toilet paper how do you get dry down there? Do you keep towels and use them and then have to launder them? Reuse?? Air dry????

  • MikeM April 10, 2018, 3:03 pm

    I run a one month rule.
    If I want something, I wait a month before buying it. Often I forget about it during that month, sometimes I have changed my mind (clock starts again) . If I still want it I get it without spurious justification.
    Max anticipation and pleasure hit, minimum guilt/ buyers regret.

    • Dom April 10, 2018, 3:18 pm

      Totally agree Mike – I don’t have a strict one-month rule but a general philosophy of “sleep on it”….

  • Greg April 10, 2018, 3:10 pm

    100 pushups for a beer? Awesome, I’m incorporating that today.
    No beer in the house? Woah, now…

  • Nice joy April 10, 2018, 3:14 pm

    Adopting minimalism gives me joy and makes me feel good when I look around. Reading good books and blogs that make sense produce happiness. Spending the money for unavoidable social reasons makes me unhappy.

  • Dom April 10, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Hi MMM,

    whilst I’m generally of your way of thinking on this and agree that many “lifestyle upgrades” etc. provide only a temporary “happiness bump” , one thing I would say can have a longer-lasting impact on your happiness level is not so much the addition of a positive thing as the removal of a negative one. As an example, I have lived for many years in the same apartment in London, UK, which had a lot of unsatisfactory aspects – poor layout, leaky windows, freezing cold, damp bathroom etc. A couple of years ago I decided to spend the money to have it completely refurbished and re-laid out*. A couple of years later it still gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able to come home to a nicely-finished, comfortable, well-laid-out and efficient space where everything just works. It’s the lack of annoyance that provides the lasting impact.

    None of this takes away from your point, just giving another angle on it.

    * I have to admit I had most of the work by external contractors – running my software business, which I love, is a full-time job in itself, and whilst I have many DIY skills (I’ve installed my own heating, bathroom, wiring etc in a previous property) I didn’t have the time, equipment or available help to DIY this one – and I didn’t go into debt getting it done.

    • Ishmael April 13, 2018, 9:52 am

      Negative emotions have a much larger impact on humans than positive ones, so it’s true that it’s better to pursue happiness by removing things from your life that make you unhappy, rather than attempt to chase things that you believe will make you happy.

      I’m guessing that’s why ER is so appealing? :)

      • LLBigwave April 22, 2018, 2:21 am

        There’s a lot to this. As has been noted on this blog many times, having financial freedom allows one to avoid much of life’s bullshit. If one equates “happiness” with “lack of bullshit,” perhaps money can buy happiness, or at least a subset of it?

  • Jason April 10, 2018, 3:24 pm

    I get that the joy from “new stuff” quickly wears out. I’ve been wondering lately if the joy of experiences does the same.

    Even if you’ve become accustomed to the stone countertops, do you still feel joy seeing them each day knowing you’ve built them?

    • Janson April 11, 2018, 8:07 pm

      If the experience putting them in is painful enough, the countertops keep giving! I put in a 14′ by 4′ stainless countertop weighing 1200 lbs and every freaking day for five years it’s made me ecstatic. Butchered a whole pig and it cleaned up sterile in 40 mins.

  • Claire73 April 10, 2018, 3:26 pm

    I look around my house and see the walls I painted, the furniture I bought secondhand and restored, the garden I planted. Over time the individual thrill of each improvement diminishes but the baseline satisfaction (happiness) increases a little bit, so it’s always on a gentle upward trajectory.

  • Wade April 10, 2018, 3:41 pm

    This is good. Seeing it on the screen. It is real.


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