The way the majority of us live our lives is truly fascinating. While we’ll quickly agree with the idea of money not being able to buy happiness, we’ll also just as quickly spend a significant amount of time away from those we love and the things we love to do each week just to get more. We will boast about a great deal we scored at a thrift shop just as quickly as we’ll be eager to show off a new luxury purchase (or envy those that have something we covet).

Deep down we must believe money can buy our happiness to some extent. Why else would we sacrifice so much time to get it?

Of course, take a closer look in our own lives at the people who have the most money, and all too often they really aren’t that happy. While they might have nice things or an enviable lifestyle, money doesn’t guarantee that they’re any happier than someone who has much less.

But that doesn’t mean happiness can’t be bought. According to research, it actually can — just not in the ways most of us try to purchase it.

Happiness can be bought if it’s spent wisely and, specifically, on others. When we spend our money to do nice things for other people, we feel good in return. And, interestingly enough, our level of happiness isn’t dependent on how much money we spend on someone else. Picking up a cup of coffee for a friend on your way to their house is, for example, capable of making you feel just as good as buying a car for someone you know. (Of course, your friends would have a different reaction to the two!)

Spending money, even small amounts, on others in a way that’s meaningful to you can dramatically improve your overall happiness. And, according to another study, this uplifted feeling can last all day. That means that by thinking of a small kind gesture you can do for someone each day can actually make you a happier person in general. And interestingly enough, the more money you spend on others, the less you actually spend on yourself! When you feel good doing something for someone else, you’re less likely to feel like you need a “pick-me-up” (Target run, anyone?) for yourself.

Below are a few ways you can buy happiness by spending your money wisely!

  1. Offer to buy coffee for a friend or co-worker.
  2. Drop off a small surprise gift to someone you haven’t seen in awhile. (A box of donuts, a candle, or a new coffee mug are all thoughtful, affordable ideas.)
  3. Give to a charity you like and trust. (You can even set up a recurring donation so that your feel-good feelings last!)
  4. Offer to pay for someone else’s tab or bill — like buying the groceries for the person behind you in line or paying for someone’s meal at a restaurant.
  5. Leave a generous gratuity the next time you eat out (or go to a drive-thru!)

When you start to realize how much happier you are by spending your money on others, these small acts of generosity will become habits — and your happiness will become something you can count on.