Just in time for the holidays, we’re giving away a copy of James A. Roberts’ insightful new book Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy, just published by HarperOne. Presenting a compelling case against materialism, Roberts illustrates with both historical data and the latest research how chasing The American Dream has put too many people on what he calls “the treadmill of consumption.” From a global viewpoint, Roberts’ findings support what many already sense, that striving for bigger, better and more has contributed to our current state of economic uncertainty.
For anyone who has ever dreamed of winning the lottery, the research findings comparing lottery winners’ happiness ratings versus average consumers and those of accident victims are fascinating and eye-opening. In fact, as much as Madison Avenue tries to convince us otherwise, Roberts’ research shows that people with a stronger focus on material aspirations consistently feel lower levels of psychological well-being.
One chapter that didn’t ring quite true for me was “Heaven Help Us: The Prosperity Gospel,” which seemed to be trying to make the case that the majority of large churches try to persuade believers to donate money by dangling the promise of increased personal riches. Every religion has its bad apples, of course, but for most people I know the concept of sowing and reaping isn’t about giving to get more, it’s about giving so we all have enough. One of the best aspects of reduced spending and consumption, in my humble opinion, is the opportunity to share more with charitable organizations and those in need. Near the end of the book in a chapter entitled “Your Money or Your Life,” Roberts, too, acknowledges our deep-seated desire to live a life of meaning and examines how, as a society, we have gotten so far away from that basic need in our passion to accumulate material possessions.
My favorite section, not surprisingly, is the practical, “how-to” chapter, “Step Away From the Shopping Cart,” with Roberts’ “25 Tweaks to Financial Tranquility.” Ahhh, don’t you just love the sound of that? I can take a deep breath and feel more peaceful just thinking about financial tranquility. Here the author presents specific ideas to curb in spending, from “just say no to the mall” to giving yourself 24 hours to cool off and carefully consider before making a purchase over $100.
To win a brand-new copy of this thought-provoking book, leave a comment below about how you’re simplifying the holidays this year. The giveaway ends on Sunday, November 27 at midnight MST. I’ll draw one random name from all the comments and announce the winner on Monday, November 28. Good luck, and I can’t wait to hear your comments.