Does money buy happiness?  That's the age old question that many have tried to answer over the years. 

The theory goes that if you have money, you have fewer worries.  The more money you have, the less you have to worry about paying the bills, putting food on the table, and putting clothes on your back.  Since those basic necessities are no longer a problem, the result is happiness.  Sound about right? 

I don't agree with this theory 100%, as people with money can certainly be miserable, and people without a lot of money can be extremely happy for reasons other than whether they have an easy time providing the basic necessities for themselves and their family.  However, I do believe that having the money to reduce the worries of providing basic needs, like shelter, food, and clothing, certainly fosters an environment where happiness can more easily grow.  But what measures would you go to in order to earn extra money?

My wife and I recently had a very hard decision to make.  She works as an assistant preschool teacher at our church.  Given our current financial situation, she requested and received more hours.  We did the math, and she would be earning significantly more money than she had the last few years.  We would have some extra money to add to our budget. 

We talked about expanding our grocery budget, and being able to afford a few little extras here and there.  Both of us sighed in relief as we thought about what the extra money would mean to our family, and how much easier things would be.  Then the school year started.

As with any teacher, the start of the school year means having a new class.  However things are a bit different with preschool, as a child can be in preschool for multiple years given the age range of the students.  So, there are some familiar faces, but there are also new ones.  Some of these new students have never been in a structured environment away from their parents before.  Some students take to it like a fish to water. Others have separation issues, and others have no idea how to behave in a school environment. 

This year presented several such students that are very challenging for the teachers.  It became obvious within the first few weeks that my wife was struggling with a longer work day alongside the large number of challenging students.  The situation became bad enough that my wife thought about looking for a different job.

She looked at the job postings with the public school district for a teacher's aide position, which she had also done in the past.  She found a position, and applied for it just to see what would happen.  She would get paid more per hour, but it offered fewer hours.  The take-home pay would be about what she had been earning in previous years at the preschool.  We went back over the numbers. 

We knew we could make the budget work because it's essentially the same as the budget we've had for the last 15 months in the debt management plan.  But what about the little extras we were going to be able to afford with the additional income we expected to have?  Were we ready to take that off the table?  Would having a higher income create happiness if my wife was going to be miserable every day at work?  Or would having my wife have a less stressful job with a lower income be a better option?

We struggled with this decision for several weeks.  She had turned in her application to the public school district, and we were sure given her qualifications and experience that she would get called for at least an interview.  What was the right choice?   We wrote down positives and negatives about both jobs.  We talked about it nightly, adjusting and prioritizing the list.  She spoke with her mother and brother about the situation.  We prayed nightly for guidance.  We thought maybe we wouldn't even have a choice.  Maybe she wouldn't be called, or even if she did, maybe she wouldn't be offered the position. 

I told her I would support either decision, as long as we both knew what it meant for our budget.  I didn't want to put the decision squarely on her, but I really needed her to determine whether she could handle the stress of the preschool job or not.  She eventually decided to stay at the preschool, and when the call did come to set up an interview for the teacher's aide position, she politely told them that she was no longer interested.

Can money buy happiness?  I've thought about this question often lately.  I think the answer to this depends upon the people involved and the situation at hand.  Will the extra money my wife earns really make things easier for our family?  I hope and I pray that it will, but only time will tell.

Related Links:

Knowing the Facts About Part-Time Employment

The Experience is Everything

Sacrificing to Become Debt-Free

Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan and in his posts he shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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