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Dublin: -1°C Sunday 24 January 2021

Opinion: Does money really buy happiness?

A recent trip down the Revenue office got me thinking…

Michelle McBride

AS I PREPARE to hand over my rainy, sunny and – in reality – any weather day money to the Revenue, I’m finding it hard to grin and bear it.

This is my ‘happy’ money. The money that’s left after the bills, rent, tax, insurance and random charges for societal and professional participation. This money, that apparently ‘can’t buy me happiness’, is certainly causing me a lot of unhappiness as I bid it farewell. My finger crossing didn’t have the favourable influence on Mr Noonan that I was hoping for ,either. The budgetary crumbs have left me with cramps in my fingers and not a penny to show for it. And what am I going to say to Santa?

This financial assault on my happiness got me thinking about what makes me happy. Is it really linked to finance or is it more intricately subjective than that? Would I be happy living on an organic fruit farm in California, bartering my produce to my communal co-habitees for some organically sourced toilet paper? Free from the constraints of the rat race, the tax man and Spar.


Myself and Bo Derek aren’t really singing off the same hymn sheet when it comes to a fabric’s ability to make you smile. According to Bo, I don’t know where to shop. I’m by no means a fashionista. I can’t think of one ‘label’ in my wardrobe. And even if I did have a rainy day fund, and knew where “the shops” were, I wouldn’t spend it there.

Although, I would love to be able to give a different response when asked where I got my top, shoes or jeans. Just once I’d like to say something other than ‘Penneys’. I am that Republic of Telly skit.

As for happiness, I don’t think I’ll find it in a LBD or this season’s hottest print. But I don’t think I’d find it in a dress made from reinforced organic eco-friendly straw, either. Pennys it is so.

Home is where the heart is

And we all want a happy heart. I daydream about moving into a place that has just one or two other occupants – as opposed to five. How nice it would be to come home and not have to play body bumper cars as we navigate the kitchen. I fear that in this particular instance money could most definitely buy me some level of increased happiness. But finding a new spot here in Cork to hang my hat is definitely not in my financial equation.

I must scan the happiness index for other areas that may offer value based contentment.


Some of the best socialisers are students and they are by no means flush – well most of them aren’t. So should I do as the students do? At first glance this seems like an option, but then I realise I don’t really want two Jagers for the price of one and I don’t have any cool hoodies.

The recession did, at least, create an outlet for non-student types to socialise without breaking their piggy bank. Early-birds and Groupons are my equivalent to the student 2-for-1 option. And, although the waiting staff may not fall over me as much as they would a ‘late bird’, it beats queuing for the oven at home.

Your health is your wealth

You may, however, need wealth to keep health in check. Mr Revenue has definitely got my health insurance. I’m more afraid of him than Ebola at the moment, so health insurance is not going to make me smile any time soon.

My gym was my health insurance until my funds migrated to the tax office. Exercise buys me a lot of happiness so I am forced to improvise. I’ve set up a makeshift gym in my kitchen –I call it “kitchfit”. A workout in my kitchen may not keep me as fit as my beloved gym, but it does make me laugh. I have to be finished before the rush hour dinner shift begins, though.

In financial reality, I’ve realised the key to my happiness is simply just to face facts. Digging my head in the sand is not an option – besides, I can’t afford the lash extensions to protect my eyes. Or the trip to Dubai.

I have to use my imagination and improvise a little. I’m definitely not ready to trade the comfort of SuperValu, light switches and flushing toilets for the organic bartering system in a field just yet.  I fear I’d miss the Irish rain and the novelty of walking down a footpath. I think I swell in the heat too.

My happiness may be affected by my finances but it isn’t reliant on them. In fact, anything that has cost me a lot of money in my life has brought with it a baggage of woes… whereas those €10 heels from Penneys? They didn’t even bring on a blister.

Michelle McBride tweets at @MichelleBride and blogs at MissUnderstood Teacher.

About the author:

Michelle McBride

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