The Happiness Project: Spending Out


Back in January, I finished reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. In the book, the author spent a year conducting little experiments in an effort to boost daily happiness. I thought it’d be a nice way to start my year, and already I’ve made some notes and started a journal to be more mindful about it.

One of the sub-chapters that really spoke to me was “Spend Out”. I’ll quote a paragraph from the book here to highlight what it means:

“A few years ago, my sister gave me a box of beautiful stationery for my birthday. I loved it, but I’d never used it. When I was mailing some photos to the grandparents, I hesitated to use the new stationery because I was “saving” it; but to what better use could it be put? Of course I should use those notes. Spend out.”

Saving is generally a good habit, but saving without an intended purpose could sometimes be detrimental. I’m definitely guilty of this practice. I’d save just about anything for a “special occasion”. But the next thing I know, it’s expired/damaged/lost, and I never got to use it, which is the biggest waste of all.


A concrete example is this eyelash glue that I bought years ago. It sat prettily in its box, lived in different apartments (we moved a lot), and when I finally decided to open the box, I saw that it had expired.

Throwing out a bottle of eyelash glue isn’t much of a big deal, but if I already ascribed some level of importance to something as trivial as this, just imagine how long I’d be willing to “save” the bigger, fancier things I owned.

Just like how the book has a practical approach to achieving happiness, the concept spending out can easily be applied to daily activities. Instead of feeling guilty or overwhelmed by the stuff I have, it’s great to be able to use the things I like on a day-to-day basis.

In fact, spending out might result in spending less. Realistically, there are only that many things you can use in a day, so you become more aware of what you actually need and are less likely to buy something “just in case”. I’ve always been a fairly disciplined shopper, and one of my rules is not to buy something unless I’m going to use it within a week. That said, I may splurge on something in the future, you never know. 😉

In some ways, this is tied to the KonMari method, which teaches you to keep only the things that “spark joy”. Keeping and using what you love everyday is an excellent source of happiness, and being happy isn’t just for special occasions.


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