Once you have enough, that is. Money is a resource that grants diminishing returns after a certain point. Initially, money is essential for ensuring our survival in modern society. It provides us with food, shelter, and clothing. After that, we use money for additional comforts: a means of private transportation; food that matches our tastes and inclinations; an abode with extra space. From this point, additional money provides luxuries, like a living space that also comes with a guest house and a pool, and is filled with designer furniture, a huge TV, and a closet full of expensive clothing, gourmet food of all varieties both from the store and purchased at restaurants, alcohol of many kinds, breathtakingly expensive vehicles, perhaps even true works of art.
At some point, and a point unique to each individual, we have enough stuff. Another car won’t provide any more meaning. The walls are full of art. The wine cellar is full of expensive bottles. The fridge is full of the finest organic foods. The kids’ college tuition is paid for. What gives us meaning when we’ve gone past survival, comfort, and even luxury in pursuit of our desires? Rather than meaning, additional “stuff” may provide stress, or even anxiety about losing all the stuff, or the income that supports having all the stuff. At a certain point, more is less.
But what do we do when our whole working lives (and likely the entire time before that) we’ve been manipulated by advertising which tells us the answer to the uneasy feeling left in our stomachs at the end of a long workday is more stuff? You’ve earned it, after all. You can even finance it before you have. (Never mind that means you will have to work longer and harder to pay for it.) As many religions have contemplated for millennia, no end exists to human desire. You can chase it forever. You’ll always want something more, bigger, brighter, shinier, newer, faster, more exclusive. But very rarely do these indulgent purchases give any additional meaning to our lives. Instead, only experience adds additional meaning—i.e., happiness—past a certain threshold. The evidence on this point is becoming overwhelming.
Thus, once we know what “enough” is, money should be used for the freedom to choose happiness—filling our time with meaningful experiences, becoming a better person—not more stuff. Because as the Dalai Lama said, happiness is what it’s all about. But don’t trust me. Try it for yourself.