How To Buy Happiness For $5 (Or Less)

how to buy happiness

Can money buy you happiness?  No!  Of course, not!  Buuuut, it can buy you things that will temporarily entertain, feed, and/or enlighten you.

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Here are 13 ways you can buy happiness (or at least brighten your day) for $5 or less

1. One of those awesome multi-colored pens
You know, the kind you had in 4th grade?  And you used to write notes to your BFF about how cute Rick Burgstaler was?  And then you wouldn’t let anyone use the pink color because you were ‘saving’ it?  You can still get one and use it to take notes in work meetings or sign your rent checks in purple ink.
2. Redbox
If you’re one of the five people left in the world who don’t have Hulu+ or Netflix (or you actually enjoy the act of holding your video rental in your hand) check out a Redbox DVD.  Get something fluffy and awful that nobody will watch with you and watch every bit of it.  Even the special features.
3. Fancy soap
TJ Maxx and Marshalls always have giant bars of soap for $3 that smell like grapefruit + clean linens + rich people.  And who doesn’t want to smell like rich people for $3?
4. Shower steamer
Shower steamers are like a bath bomb for your shower – a ball of awesome (and essential oils) that’s released in the steam of your shower.  Lovely!
5. Ice cream cone
For $5 you can get quite a nice sized cone.  Try out a new flavor – Norwegian chai, cream cheese, sweet corn or cereal milk!
6. Tacky nail polish and DIY manicure
If you’re saving your pennies for a proper manicure, you probably want to choose a color that works in multiple environments – like the office and that wedding.  But if you’re doing it yourself, why not do neon green with rainbow sparkly ring fingers?
7. Fancy chocolate bar
You know, for the antioxidants.
8. Matinee at the cheapo theater
Second-run theaters are lovely!  You can finally see that silly movie you were too embarrassed to see when it came out.9. Download your favorite can’t-help-but-dance-to-it songs
You know the ones.  The ones where you sing along in the car while fervently slapping the steering wheel?  (This is my current go-to.  Yup.)
10. One-dose face mask
Squeeze it out, smear it on, put your feet up, and read a magazine.
11. Disposable camera
Because it’s oddly awesome to find out what your pictures look like several days after you take them.  Delayed gratification!  How novel!
12. A package of  your favorite childhood candy
For me, it’s Big League Chew or Fun Dip.  Maybe you love Red Vines or Fruit-by-the-foot?
13. Sparklers
They’re awesome any time of year, but oddly more awesome outside of the traditional fireworks holidays. (Here’s a great how-to on taking long exposure photos with sparklers!)

What are your favorite five dollar (or less!) day makers?

P.S. 23 ways to treat yourself that don’t involve buying or eating anything!

photo credit: mickey o’neil // cc

23 Comments

Stefan, Sarah and Lukka

Some of mine were already on your list (big dark chocolate bar, movie) but a few of mine are also:
*Trader Joe's butter chicken frozen meal (for $2 it beats most take out in my town)
*a hank of (discounted) yarn from the yarn store–for the knitters here 🙂 Cheap, lovely handmade gift for a special person or to keep!
Sarah M

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Amelia Jane

Yes to ridiculously sparkly home manicures! I'm all about thrifting books for my cheap kicks – or buying two cupcakes & heading to the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum for the afternoon. (With a friend, of course!)

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lifebykristen

OO I love these! Here are some of my best things under $5: small iced coffee, cup of tea & cupcake, used books at local library sale table, five pieces of random fun toys or puzzle books at the dollar store ( or any number of combinations of 5 things at the dollar store!)

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Ash @ Ash in Fashion

My #1 go-to for under $5 is a cupcake. Maybe while eating a bath. Because girls do that, right? Maybe I should try it.

My other personal options would include
-A $1 or $5 donation at the pet store to helping animals get spayed, neutered and vaccinated (or buying one of those donation packs that includes a can of food, a tinsel ball or treat)
-A cheap bouquet of grocery store flowers. Flowers are still flowers, right?
– round-trip local bus fare (or in our case, streetcar!). Sometimes it's just nice to get out, look around, see what you may have missed while driving.
– Whatever bottle of wine I can find at World Market for $5.99 or under (I'm giving myself a little leeway here). It's too bad we don't have a Trader Joe's, because Two Buck Chuck would be on that list! (I could get 2 & still have change!)

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Kit

This is a great list as I've just put myself on a budget and will need cheap and cheerful ideas! Flowers are always a good one. I've got a lovely little florist near me that actually sells quite beautiful bunches for £5, or the supermarket is good too! I've never heard of a shower steamer and now think it is my purpose to source one out!

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Jenn Wisbeck

Seconding the yarn or cheap wine!

Also-
1. Embroidery floss- You can get a enough to make a lot of friendship bracelets for just a couple dollars. (When I was trying to use up embroidery floss, I covered my electronics cords in them, which is also entertaining: http://www.midnightskyfibers.com/wrapped-cords)
2. Really fancy soda or sparkling water
3. Fancy (bulk) tea
4. A bright bouquet of flowers- Pike Place has great $5 bouquets that are big enough to split in to several smaller bouquets.
5. Make silk project craft bags- silk from the remnant table is cheap!

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mslizot

I love all of these, probably because being chronically unemployed means that these are the things within my price range.
Also good: A bottle/can of your favorite non-diet soda (the deli near me makes their own sarsaparilla), stamps (you can make your own postcards), and a Sunday paper (to feel like an adult.)

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Brandi

The picture of the $5 elephant reminds me of the summer I tried to be a waitress. Among a lot of lousy tips, one guy left me a buck. HOWEVER, that single bill was made into an origami shirt. Not-so-great tip monetarily…but it made me smile. I think I still have it!

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Cassie

My dollar store sells Yardley. Yes, the English soap. Yes, I'm writing this from New York State.

If you wait until the last day of a library book sale, sometimes they'll have a "bag day", where it's $1-$1.50 per bag.

But the best thing I ever got for $5? The pleather ribbon and D-rings to make my favorite belt. (Since I always have black thread and needles around the house…) That sucker's down in the pennies-per-wear by now.

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Nova

Disposable cameras here are like $20…and developing the film is another $10! Not so cheap anymore. Boo-urns.

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Saveria

In Korea matinee movies are mostly always about 5 dollars even in good theaters! But the ice cream cone idea sounds good to me (:

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Katie Mack

I'd like to cast a double vote for the Trader Joe's Butter Chicken!

I also like to donate $5 to a project on Kickstarter for instant happiness. Sure, $5 may not be much, but it's something at least! The best part is, I can search projects local to me and support my local peeps. For instance, I just donated $5 to a movie project called Brain Eaters…because everyone should be ready for the zombie apocalypse!

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Nessbow

Many of the ones you've listed are a part of my pick-me-up rituals (including cheapo nail polish and fancy soap). I also love buying several sheets of ridiculous, holographic stickers and plastering them on letters to my friends.

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mel

I'll add:
New lipstick (on sale drugstore brand)
Calling my grandma long distance
$5 worth of a new fancy cheese

But yes, I'm also all about the great pen and nailpolish 🙂

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