Behavioral Changes You’ll See When You Make Good Money

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You may be familiar with research that came out in 2010, showing that, after a person makes $75,000 a year, happiness levels plateau. In other words, making up to 75K could make you happy, but making more won’t make you any happier. The study became very popular, perhaps in part due to the fact that it confirmed a theory we all love to believe: that you don’t need a lot of money to be happy. A more recent and more expansive study did manage to prove the 2010 one mostly incorrect. In looking at 33,000 participants across many age groups and income levels, assessing their happiness levels both on a moment-to-moment basis and on an overall level, the research found that happiness can continue to increase with income levels. The main reason the study gave was this: the more money one makes, the more control they feel over their life.


For the record, a closer look at the 2010 study finds that, making up to $75,000 a year doesn’t actually improve one’s sense of emotional wellbeing – it just improves one’s “evaluation of life.” You can be emotionally well at many different incomes, one could argue. But the idea that making more money gives one a greater sense of control brings up an interesting point. When you do begin to make good money, you might find that some of your spending habits change, and they often relate directly to having more options aka more control. Here are behavior changes you may notice when you start to make good money.

money happiness

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You’ll book non-stop flights

Taking the connecting flight versus the non-stop doesn’t always save you a lot of money, but it certainly can sometimes. This blog post lists some real connecting versus non-stop options from major airlines and shows that, in comes cases, the savings can reach hundreds of dollars. The savings are over $600 for flights from Los Angeles to Paris. But what is convenience worth to you? When you start to make good money, you may decide it’s worth the couple extra hundred to not get off the plane at a midway airport, having to kill time, nap on hard, cold benches, and eat nasty airport food for three hours between connecting flights. When you start to make good money, you start paying those convenience fees. Similarly, you may start taking more solo Ubers instead of Uber Pools.

money happiness

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You’ll say yes, before asking about the price

When you’re on a tight budget and friends invite you to a boozy brunch, daytime cruise, birthday dinner, vacation —  you name it – you don’t give your answer until you’ve done some digging around. How much is the cruise? Can you find a coupon code? How expensive is the restaurant for the birthday dinner? Is there a minimum you must spend at the boozy brunch to get the bottomless mimosas? You can’t just get excited and say, “Yes!” with enthusiasm when invited to a group outing, when you’re on a budget. But once you make good money, you just have to ask yourself the question: “Do I like these friends and want to spend time with them?”

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You’ll stay at the official wedding hotel

When we were pretty broke and invited to a wedding, my husband and I immediately knew we would not be staying at whatever hotel the betrothed couple blocked off rooms at. That was always going to be a four-star hotel. If it was in another country, it was always going to be at the name-brand chain like a Marriott or Hilton, and we just knew it’d be pricey. We immediately overlooked whatever hotel everyone else would be staying at, and went on the hunt for some local Bed and Breakfast or family-owned inn. Now that we make a bit more, it’s nice to just stay where the rest of the wedding party is staying. We feel more included in the festivities.

money happiness

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You’ll order appetizers, without discussion

How you feel about ordering appetizers depends a lot on what kind of money you make. You have those who immediately order eight appetizers for the table, assuming people are here to have an experience and try lots of different foods. And you have those who try to make sure there is someone who will be splitting these appetizers with them (i.e. splitting the price) before ordering them. And then you very carefully choose just one or two. Once you start making good money, you just start ordering appetizers for the table, not concerned with how the bill shakes out.

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You won’t DIY everything

Being on a tight budget can have its value for a while, like how it teaches you to do a lot of things for yourself because you simply can’t afford to pay someone else to do them for you. So you learn to do your own taxes. You learn to hem your own pants. You make all of your own meals. You clean your own home. When you make good money, you start calculating what your time is worth. If you make, say, $35 an hour and can hire a housecleaner for $20 an hour, you actually save money by hiring a housekeeper and getting your own work done while someone else cleans your place. Or, you may decide to relax then, which is something you can afford to do.

money happiness

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You’ll choose your life a bit more

When you don’t make much, you just kind of have to say yes to most money-making opportunities that come along. You can’t afford to say no to work. But when you start making good money, it takes more money to get you out of the house. It certainly takes more money to get you to skip a valuable life experience. For example, when you don’t make much, you may just have to miss your partner’s birthday party if you’re offered a paying gig that night, and can’t afford to do without it. But when you make more money, a gig would have to pay quite a bit to get you to miss out on valuable life experiences.

money happiness

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You’ll ask for more money

There are many reasons that the richer get richer, and one of those has to do with investments. But another has to do with growing confidence in asking for more money. Each time you ask for more money, and get that “Yes,” your confidence in your abilities grows. The more your confidence in your abilities grows, the more you feel justified in asking for even more money next time. Furthermore, once you have an established track record of getting paid X amount, you are justified to ask for at least that. Most companies or clients won’t expect you to take a pay cut from your last job, so once you make more, you’ll continue to ask for more, and be launched into a new category of cost (i.e. what your services cost).

money happiness

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You’ll encourage friends to get more money

Once you have that wealthy mindset (and bank account), you want the same for your friends. Once you’ve experienced what it’s like to not check menu prices before ordering, you want that freedom for your loved ones. Also, once you make more money, you realize how underpaid you used to be, and from your position, you can see how underpaid your loved ones are. This might be when you start encouraging your friends and family to ask for a bigger salary or a bigger raise, or to quote a higher price for a client. It may worry them, but you’ve seen how the risk can pay off.

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You’ll add the special thing

The $12 lobster tail to the steak dinner. The $6 guacamole to the fajitas. The $7 liqueur floater to the margarita. The limo instead of the sedan Uber. The room with the view, for a little more than the one that faces the parking lot. The blowout with the haircut. You start adding those little extras that aren’t necessary and are pure luxury. On a tight budget, you typically say no to the up-charges and the add-ons. They can put you over your strict budget. But after a certain income level, that $6 guacamole makes no difference in your dining budget.

money happiness

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You’ll pick up the tab

Finally, you pick up the tab sometimes. Rather than grab the receipt and start itemizing who bought what, splitting it up, and arranging who will Venmo whom, you just pick up the tab. You tell your friends, “I got this one.” You go to the bar and get a round of drinks for everyone, without them asking, and without expecting anything in return. You use your miles to get a plane ticket for a friend who can’t afford hers. You get to start treating your friends a bit more, which can be the best feeling. Just be careful not to attract moochers.

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