Money can buy you happiness. You just need to know where to spend it. We found 10 great places.

10 Ways that Money Can Buy You Happiness

There’s a special edition magazine from Time which details what we all have known for ages: money CAN buy you happiness. Of course it can. Paying someone else to do the things you loathe so that you can do the things you love is exactly the sort of transaction that buys a person happiness.

Stefanie’s spent years telling me that women (moms in particular) should outsource their most terrible chores so that they can have a more enjoyable life. I suppose modern appliances like the dishwasher and laundry machines best illustrate that. But since indoor plumbing is no longer a luxury for the wealthy let’s talk about the ways that our friends are buying happiness and how much it costs.

We were inundated with emails and texts from every major region in America. We have friends in the rural bible belt and New York City. We’ve covered suburbs in Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Washington and two dozen other states. Our friends work from home, from offices, don’t work and are on disability. The only thing they have in common is that they know us.

1. Housekeeping services are the number one way that our friends buy happiness.

Our friends are spending anywhere from $60 a day to $170 a day on housekeeping nationwide and using these services as much as five days a week and as few as once a month. The average in our neighborhood seemed to be close to $700 a month so we’re feeling like $8,400 a year buys you a nice chunk of happiness in Los Angeles. 

If you live in part of Michigan, West Virginia or Connecticut you can expect to spend half as much and laundry and windows will likely be included.

2. Caring for pets is where the slogan Staff Over Stuff must have originated.

Anyone with a small dog (read: inbred) who needs his anal glands expressed knows that a good dog groomer is worth their weight in gold. I happily spend $125 a month for Junior to be bathed weekly and trimmed monthly. A friend with a larger dog is spending $200 every month for two cleanings and still another happily spends $500 for someone to clean the yard from dog waste. Dog walking varies widely in it’s expense but we found that folks used that service so they could go to work rather than to avoid the chore.

In Los Angeles $6,000 a year means you live a poop free existence and another $3,000 means you don’t have to put a finger up their butt. If your dog is costing you $9,000 a year you’re probably pretty happy.

So far we’ve allocated $17,400 of your annual income to make you happy.

3. If you can buy a tutor you can buy a day that’s free of fights with your teen.

Regular tutoring for a typical learner has a wide range of fees. Folks we talked to were spending anywhere from $30 to $225 an hour depending on the region, subject and the child’s particular needs. Our neighborhood average was $75 for someone with great credentials that comes to your home. You’re spending $75 an hour once a week and you’re just using that one hour. Throw in four extra sessions a year for big tests, complicated subjects and final projects. Assume you need tutoring for just two subjects and the school year is 36 weeks long. A neurotypical child will run you $3,000 a year in tutoring. Our friends have kids with ADHD. Tutoring averages $20,000 a year per child for the ADHD kids. Your money just bought their happiness too.

We have two kids so we’re going to assume you do too. Now we’re spending somewhere between $23,400 and $57,400. We’re still happy. Are you happy yet????

4. Professional Organizers keep the tears away.

I can attest to the powers of a great organizer. I use one every year or so and our readers are using them as regularly as every month or quarter. Organizers seem to start at $30 an hour if you’re using them regularly for everything from closets to home offices. The folks I use come from Get Organized Already and they’re a little more but I’ve personally loved the results. Let’s add another $100 a month for organizing and say that $1,200 a year will make you happy. It will. I promise. Giddy even.

Tab so far: $24,600 to $58,600 – sheer. effing. joy. Why do these numbers freak me out?


5. Pool guys and gardeners free up a lot of time for friends and family.

Fees run the gamut  from $40 a month to $300 for our friends all over the country. Of course different regions will have different fees but gardens and pools, like houses, vary wildly in size. Let’s earmark another $1,200 a year to our gardens and pools, shall we? 

Annual happiness fee: $25,800 to $59,800 (fine! I have hayfever)

6. Buying prepared or partially prepped food saves a lot of time before and after meals.

There’s so much less cleaning to do and then of course there’s the shopping, planning and chopping. Our friends are spending money on things like cut watermelon ($20 a month) and services like Amazon Fresh or Instacart for shopping. They’re also using things like Blue Apron. On average we’re spending another $200 a month on this. Help with the food preparation is bringing us $2,400 of happiness a year. 

If you’re still keeping track our annual expenses are now ranging from $28,200 to $62,200 but we’ve long ago passed the point where our imaginary happiness requires us to do a single thing around a home or office. So basically we are absurdly happy money spenders for a living.

7. Personal grooming can be outsourced and for many just that hour or so of someone else tending to you is the joy.

Our friends are spending as little as $25 plus tip every two weeks for a pedicure and as much as $300 a week for blow outs, eyebrow waxing and mani-pedis. The range per year of outsourced personal grooming among our friends is $650 to $15,600 a year for the kind of grooming adult women really ought to be able to do for themselves. Hint: neither Stefanie nor I spend $650 a year on these services. We also don’t spend 5 figures but we’re still slow to judge on this one (or any of these things really).

Our running happiness cost now ranges from $28,850 (a well equipped midsize sedan) to $77,800 (an entry level Porsche).

8. Car washes seem to provide universal happiness for under $30 in all US regions.

I understand this. I love getting into a pristine car and I’m guilty of getting my car very dirty very quickly. There are $10 car washes all over Los Angeles but not one person mentioned using them and deriving any pleasure from it. This is probably the purest money can buy you happiness item of them all. Cost? $30 on average three times a month or $1080. 

Running total: $29,930 to $78,880 for the year

9. Uber, Lyft, Taxis and other ways to sit in the backseat.

Our friends love getting time in the backseat of car for hire where they can relax instead of in the driver’s seat where shoulders are tense and you’re on the lookout for terrible drivers. At the low end our friends are spending $50 a month, at the high end $500. We only collected numbers from friends who do own cars. Total happiness cost of hiring drivers for our friends averages $2,500 per annum. 

We are approaching nirvana for somewhere between $32,430 and $81,380 each year.

10. Childcare for stay at home moms

Stay at home moms aren’t supposed to have a nanny because that’s their job. Right? Wrong. Our friends who stay at home with their kids are hiring nannies at $15 an hour for 20 hours a week on average. The working moms are hiring sittters so that they can enjoy a little time with their feet up too, about 20 hours a month. The range of “non-essential childcare” our friends are using is $3,600 to $15,600 and it buys women hours of freedom to pursue their bliss. 

Our very scientific study concludes that you can spend away almost all the drudgery in your life for somewhere between $36,030 and $96,980.

Most interestingly, we found that the $30 items, pedicures and car washes, brought the most relief to most people.

What did we miss? We’re pretty sure $1080 over the course of a year can buy everyone some free time to wander in the woods, hold hands with their spouse on the sofa, or free up a couple of hours to take someone you love to the movies and get lost in a good story.

Money can buy you happiness and our friends have some great ideas about how to spend it.

What could possibly make a woman react like this to a house?

A Million Dollar Home in Texas

Stefanie and I were thinking about writing a post about what a million dollars will buy you in a few different regions. With that in mind I started poking around the web and found a house to show her. 

And then I jammed a camera in her face because I’m kind of an a**hole sometimes.

The front gate was inviting enough…

A normal looking gate for a mansion until you look closely

but upon closer inspection the guy standing there is a little different.

You realize that he looks a little like the girl who is busy TAP DANCING ON THE CEILING of the study

Artists have a child tap dance on their ceiling

And this is the moment where I realize that I don’t want to own this home. I want to befriend these people. I want to hang out with the woman whose master bath looks like this:

This is what an artist does in their master bathroom

Because I’m pretty sure she knows how to do a perfect manicure and I’m equally certain that her makeup blending skills are excellent.

I’m not sure what shocked Stefanie most, the tap dancer, the adult mannequins, or perhaps the fact that this is what $1.1 million gets you in Los Angeles.

This house is for sale in Los Angeles for slightly more than one million dollars.

And this is what the front of the artists’ house looks like.

A million dollar home in Texas looks lovely from the street and has surprises inside.

 

AMEX and Chase both have great travel reward credit cards but there's one big difference with AMEX if you have a family that travels a lot and travels independent of each other.

AMEX Platinum: Not All Premium Cards Are Created Equal

Currently us four Gottliebs are on two continents. Of the three here in North America only two of us are in California. This is not unusual. We travel a lot. We travel for business. We travel for pleasure. If we’re really lucky we travel for a little monkey business.

We are a family on the move.

Back in 2011 someone got ahold of my Chase account number and could have financially destroyed us (shred everything people!). The help I got from my local branch was nothing short of spectacular and I’ve been a happy customer since.

I really liked Chase’s Sapphire Credit Card and when the Sapphire Reserve Card made its debut it was a no-brainer. That card pays for itself by March every year and the miles are really the best ever. I ended up taking my family of four to Europe, business class, for $900.

Because the Sapphire Reserve Card is so generous with its benefits I’d come dangerously close to canceling my Platinum American Express Card, particularly because the fees for it rose this year. When AMEX added $200 a year of Uber (we use quite a bit more than that as a family) to the $200 flight credits, and threw in free gold cards for four more people I decided that I’d wait a year before canceling the card. I decided that I’d do the math and only jettison cards that didn’t pay for themselves.

We all have both the AMEX and the Chase Credit card.

The Platinum AMEX paid for itself this week in a way that I’ve learned only AMEX can. 

My daughter is traveling in Europe. My husband was in New York. My son and I were in Los Angeles and my AMEX was being used in Portland Oregon. This isn’t really that big of a deal on a normal day. You call AMEX, alert them to the fraud and typically a card arrives before 48 hours has passed.

The only reason that this was a very big deal was because Mr. G’s Chase card had been stolen the week prior and replacements had been sent after our daughter had already left for Europe. This means that she would have two credit cards that didn’t work and that I’d have to throw cash onto her debit card and hope for the best. Typically a terrible plan with a teenager for a million different reasons.

I called American Express, possibly while hyperventilating, and explained the situation to the lady on the other end of the line. She commiserated about how annoying all this theft is and then explained to me that my daughter’s card wasn’t stolen.

Yes it was!!! I might have been shrill.

Then she explained me that that even though it’s one account we all have different card numbers so when one is lost or stolen they needn’t all be replaced.

I will never get rid of that American Express. I’d never checked the cards closely (only the bills/balances – eek!) and hadn’t realized that our numbers were different. I can’t imagine why other banks don’t offer this within their accounts. It’s easy to offer customers rewards. What’s not easy is protecting a traveller and her family.

I do have one complaint about both of these cards. They’re made of metal. Does no one at AMEX or Chase have a manicure or a new wallet? Do they not understand that when credit cards don’t bend a little they’re near impossible to get out of a wallet? I know it’s an absurd problem since I mostly use apple pay anyhow. But really…. plastic. We want our plastic to be plastic.