Money cannot buy happiness but how you spend it differently will make you feel better and happier. Michael Norton experimented on making people spend money on others rather than on themselves and measure their happiness as shown at TED. Michael went to University of British Columbia campus and approached people to be part of experiment. The subjects were given some money ranging from $5 to $20 and spend it. One group was to spend it on themselves. One group was to spend it on others. At the end of the day, people who spent it on themselves are not less happy, it just did not do anything for them. People who spent it for others became happier. The morale of the story is: you will be happier if you spend money on others. And this brings me to an experiment on myself.
Me, myself and I are the best experimental subject. The experiment is about donation.
Quid Pro Quo is my motto when it comes to donation. What do I get in return should I donate to United Way or other charitable organization? Writing a list always helps:
- How much donation should I give in order to get a tax receipt? Is it as low as $5 or $10?
- How will they spend the money? I want to know because I don’t want my hard-earned cash to be wasted.
- Will I win a BMW car or 50 inch flat screen TV or a trip to Bahamas?
United Way fund-raising is big at work. There is Pancake Breakfast, BBQ lunch, 50/50 draw, silent auction, etc. The prizes are phenomenal especially they are all donated for fundraising sakes. Breakfast and lunch are a good deal for $10. The 50/50 draw for seven tickets for $10 could win half of the pot at least $700. I get a good return on my ten bucks. In fact, I won four bottles of wine: 2 red and 2 white. I don’t even drink. These can be useful for re-gifting, I thought. Silent auction that I spent $30 got me two flashlights worth more than $70. So far, I am a winner.
Then Typhoon Hayain came. Somehow, I went through major dilemma whether I will donate or not for typhoon relief. Again, I made another list what can I give up to give in monetarily.
- Give up two cups of Starbucks coffee plus one Ginger Cookie. Cost $5.41
- Root beer and Jalapeno Ms. Vicky potato chips. Cost $3.15
- A pack of cigarettes. Cost $9.91
Looking at this list did not move me into giving. There is something in me that I cannot put a finger that stops me from donating. The devil was blocking the goodness of my intention to help and it was overpowering.
My colleague at work sent me an e-mail about typhoon relief. For $5, it buys rice, clean water and canned sardines that feed a lot of Filipino. I posted it at my work station for others to see but I ignored it the whole time. Surely, I can spare five bucks. My conscience does not bother me but what bothers me where is this apathy coming from? It came from social media.
Feeling morose on my way to work, waiting for the train, the sky stopped me on my tracks. The many hues radiated by the sun appeared as if angels dancing happily with merry morning greeting. At the edge of the platform, there I stood for the longest time and took a picture to capture the moment. In the meantime, many trains have gone by and the clock is ticking. I forced myself out of the reverie so that I won’t be late for work.
When I turned around, a lady was standing behind me and I excitedly told her how beautiful the sky is. She smiled back and said she was waiting for me to turn around and does not want to disturb the moment.
“Oh, how come?” I asked.
Then she handed me a five dollar bill and said I dropped it. With her honesty and kindness, I thanked her and we separated ways. I thought since I’ve lost this money, I might as well donate it for the typhoon relief. The thought did not make me happy but the encounter of an honest stranger did.
When I came home, the dreaded moment of receiving visa statement of expenses from the trip to Spain came in the mail. I know how much the trip to Camino cost me: a year of skimping and saving. When I looked at the statement, much to my surprise, there are two credit notes: one day’s credit from the trip that I completely forgot and some returned items. Suddenly, I felt so rich with these credit notes.
And then the still small voice appeared. With no hesitation, I wrote a cheque for the same amount of credits received to go towards the typhoon relief and I keep the five dollars.
Starbucks, here I come.
P.S. Did this whole experiment make me happy? Heck no. At least I got rid of the devil on my back. Thanks to those dancing angels in the sky and the honest stranger.