Turns out money CAN buy happiness (but only if we spend it the right way).

In their new book Happy Money: the Science of Smarter Spending, behavioral economists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton draw on years of quant/qual research to explain how we can transform cash into contentment – but only if we alter our spending habits and adhere to the following five key principles:

1. Buy Experiences – research shows that material purchases are less satisfying than vacations or concerts

2. Make it a Treat  – limiting access to our favorite things will make us keep appreciating them

3. Buy Time – focusing on time over money yields wiser purchases

4. Pay Now, Consume Later – delayed consumption leads to increased enjoyment

5. Invest in Others – spending money on other people makes us happier than spending it on ourselves

As a consumer, I found this to be a very insightful read and a helpful set of guidelines on how to indirectly pursue happiness (thank you, Aristotle) as well as how to navigate the treacherous shoals of our increasingly consumption-driven society.

As the principal of a Charlotte shopper marketing agency and brand design studio, I was intrigued by the authors' exploration of a principle known as scarcity marketing. Happy Money provides valuable information not only for pleasure-seeking consumers, but also for companies looking to increase the happiness of both employees and customers, and describes how the power of limited access has led to fanatical demand of such products as McDonald's "McRib" sandwich.

If you've never heard of the McRib, it's a ground pork patty with barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles. Although pork supplies are steady, the McRib has been continually taken off the market and reintroduced – always for a limited time –over the past three decades. 

And the consumer response? An absolute obsession. Every time the Golden Arches rolls out it in a region or city, company sales go up. In fact, you can even visit the fan-based McRib Locator website, a United States map with a comprehensive list of confirmed, possible, and questionable McRib sightings. 

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