The economics of love and happiness

It's not called a social science for nothing. 4 ways to recession-proof your personal life

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By Tyler Cowen, Money Magazine contributing writer


(Money Magazine) -- You may think economics is just about GDP and the Fed. But actually, it's the science of weighing costs and benefits - which makes it also very useful for solving problems in everyday life.

How to win an argument with your spouse

A marriage, like a lot of economic arrangements, is a long-term investment. It's smarter to defer an immediate profit (proving to your spouse that you're more intelligent/ deserving/put upon) in order to gain a longer-lasting one (a spouse who thinks you take his or her points seriously).

So in the middle of your next battle, stop and remember, "The chance that I am wrong is at least 50%." And ask yourself whether this particular fifty-fifty proposition is worth the certainty that you'll steam your spouse if you insist on winning. Then give in.

How to find a good restaurant in a strange city

Keep in mind just one simple principle: Competition raises quality and lowers price. Look for large numbers of restaurants of a similar kind - barbecue in rural Texas, Mexican food in Chicago - where competition will work its magic. Avoid going to the restaurant on the main drag; the worst ones are those with a captive (or lazy) audience.

How to really help a charity

What you don't want to do is send a check for $50 with a hint that you own a yacht. Because fund raising is so expensive, the nonprofit will probably end up spending more money on future solicitations than you're worth. Minimize the costs of extracting a donation and processing it: Give one large amount to your favorite cause rather than small sums to many.

How to get someone to fall in love with you

Join a dating service such as eHarmony that uses scientific formulas to tell a potential mate that you are a terrific match. The point is not that the formulas really work (who knows?) but that the users of the service believe they do - and therefore will be receptive to you. A lot about closing a deal, whether in business or romance, is simply being open to it.

- Tyler Cowen is an economist at George Mason University and author of "Discover your inner economist." To top of page

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