Four hundred and one


I sent off my Extreme Couponing section of the book to my agent today and am working on the edits she suggested for the prologue.  As I’m writing about how this journey got started right now and my first couple of months, I’m analyzing more and more what happiness is and why I am so much happier now than the beginning of last year.  It’s very fitting then, that the first ever World Happiness Report was released yesterday in time for the UN’s Conference on Happiness.  The report is a fascinating read and if you have time I would recommend taking a look.  Here are a few excerpts:

We live in an age of stark contradictions. The world enjoys technologies of unimaginable sophistication; yet has at least one billion people without enough to eat each day. The world economy is propelled to soaring new heights of productivity through ongoing technological and organizational advance; yet is relentlessly destroying the natural environment in the process. Countries achieve great progress in economic development as conventionally measured; yet along the way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, and other ills of modern life…

…happiness differs systematically across societies and over time, for reasons that are identifiable, and even alterable through the ways in which public policies are designed and delivered. It makes sense, in other words, to pursue policies to raise the public’s happiness as much as it does to raise the public’s national income….

A household’s income counts for life satisfaction, but only in a limited way. Other things matter more: community trust, mental and physical health, and the quality of governance and rule of law. Raising incomes can raise happiness, especially in poor societies, but fostering cooperation and community can do even more, especially in rich societies that have a low marginal utility of income. It is no accident that the happiest countries in the world tend to be high-income countries that also have a high degree of social equality, trust, and quality of governance. In recent years, Denmark has been topping the list. And it’s no accident that the U.S. has experienced no rise of life satisfaction for half a century, a period in which inequality has soared, social trust has declined, and the public has lost faith in its government….

The report recommends Sustainable Development Goals with four pillars: to end extreme poverty by 2030; environmental sustainability; social inclusion; good governance.  The top ten happiest countries the report found are (in order): Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland.  United States is eleventh.

The report found happiness is determined by “external” factors such as: income; work; community and governance; and values and religion, and “personal” factors such as: mental health; physical health; family experience; education; and gender and age.  It’s no wonder I’m happier, having changed many of these factors in my life, including my values, physical and mental health, and my community.

The ramifications of TLC’s Extreme Couponing

Speaking of happiness, there are some not-so-happy couponers out there because of TLC’s Extreme Couponing show.  I was checking sources and statistics for my book and came across a lot of articles and comments saying how that television show has made it harder for them to save money now. “Spaving” Gone Wild: The Hidden Costs of Extreme Couponing is just one example, but take a look at the comments on the article.  One lady comments: “BECAUSE OF THIS STUPID SHOW many grocery stores have changed their coupon policies! This makes it hard for those us that just want to save a few bucks on a shopping order.”  Another says: “it’s those type of customers that clean store shelves for the thrill of it and leave the rest of us driving all over town for the item we DO want/need/will use!  I HATE EC on TLC with a passion!”  Another: “I’ve noticed stores that used to stack coupons have changed their policies and have started to discourage usage. Items are often missing. It seems like an innocent way to save money for a family has turned into something more…not innocent.”  There’s lots more.

It’s interesting because when I did my extreme couponing experiment it was before the whole season of TLC’s Extreme Couponing came out (they had only run one special I believe at the time).  I wonder if Canadian couponing was affected.  I haven’t noticed it, but I don’t use coupons nearly as much as I did during that month.