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We’ve always heard the words “money cannot buy happiness” at least once in our lifetimes. Sometimes it’s when we are complaining that we do not have enough money, or worrying about our future in a jobless world, or even complaining about the rich who own a stupid amount of money. The phrase can be irritating to some and frustrating to others. Although they may be right in saying that money cannot buy happiness, it is impossible to buy an emotion – they are not entirely correct either.

Although it is impossible to buy happiness, other items may be bought that could produce happiness and lower stress. Such items could be a dress that looks nice on you, a trip to your dream destination or even no debt. All of these are items which we pay for with money which generate happiness. Even if the person does not have enough money to purchase items that would make them feel happy but enough to pay off bills, it still generates less stress which allows them to feel less unhappy. It might be a redundant explanation, but often people forget that we live in a capitalist society in which money makes the world go around (at least in most cultures).

The phrase “money cannot buy happiness” is often a poor response to a bigger issue that people often face when complaining about money or their own futures. It is dismissive to the people that struggle to make ends meet and are barely holding onto themselves from the lack of money. I can assure you, that if you gave these people even $20 their mood would significantly improve because it is $20 that can be spent on better food, paying bills or even allowing them to treat themselves a little bit more that month. Ignoring the bigger picture and simply stating that money cannot buy happiness is creating a narrative where we look down upon the people struggling with money. Because of course those who do not have the money should not worry about happiness and should try to find happiness in other things– failing to realize that nearly everything has a cost.

Although the phrase should be better used when in a relationship when you are clearly unhappy and the other person attempts to purchase you items to make you happy (which would essentially be putting a Band-Aid over a gushing wound) we shouldn’t be using this phrase in reference to those that actually have money problems. We should be more empathetic to people struggling. The next time someone says that money cannot buy happiness, make sure to tell them that maybe it can’t directly but it sure can make someone’s life easier.