The Single Best Way to Spend $5, According to Science

It doesn't take much to turn your whole day around—and there's research to prove it.

You've of course heard that money can't buy happiness—and that's true to a certain extent. A study out of Purdue University recently found that while money does in fact enhance your quality of life, that's only true up to a point—and in North America, you reach peak happiness once you're lucky enough to earn $105,000 per year. For most of us, that may not be attainable, but the good news is, another new study from researchers at the University of British Columbia found that you can buy happiness for just $5, as long as you're buying the right thing.

According to the study, which was published in Feb. 2021 in The Journal of Positive Psychology, happiness doesn't come from spending $5 on something for yourself; it comes from buying something for your dog. The researchers behind the study performed two experiments, the first of which involved 159 dog owners who were asked about a time they spent money—around $5—on themselves, another person, or their pet. After they recalled what they had purchased, they answered questions to determine how happy they were at that moment. It turned out people felt happiest when thinking about spending money on their dogs.

golden retriever puppy chewing ball, best chew toys for puppies

Next, the researchers recruited 188 pet owners who were given $5 and were randomly told to spend the money on either themselves, someone else, or their pet before 8 p.m. that night. Following their shopping trip, they were asked to complete a survey. Again, the results showed that the people who were asked to spend money on their pets reported feeling happier than those who spent the five spot on themselves or on someone else.

And guess what? Those pet owners who had already given their dogs the gift reported feeling the happiest of all—no doubt savoring the licks of gratitude.

So, the next time you find an Abraham Lincoln in an old coat pocket, treat Fido to a new chew toy—it's sure to make both of your days.

And for more research-based ways to smile more, here are 50 Happiness Hacks That Are Entirely Backed by Science.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Read more
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