By Judy Garrison

Mia Dunleavey, who acquired a weekend house on Main Street, Andes in 2002, decided two years ago with her husband, Matthew Perry, to make it their full time home. Their process in arriving at this decision was influenced by the realities of life in New York City: that they were expecting a baby, and that Mia had almost finished writing a book whose message was beginning to have an effect on the author herself! Money Can Buy You Happiness: How to Spend to Get the Life You Want, by MP Dunleavey, published this June, offers the reader the benefits of Mia’s interviews with people who were re-aligning their priorities. The book sets out a framework for allocating time and energy—she uses the investment metaphor in its broadest sense—as well as money so that friendships and family relationships and personal time are not sacrificed. As Publishers Weekly put it, “By emphasizing the quality over quantity of spending and providing quick exercises to help prioritize what matters, she produces a holistic and realistic method of financial planning….Her advice is as solid as it is sympathetic and encouraging.” And as Mia said to me, “We can be happy with the money we have if we think about if differently.”

Mia is a personal finance writer, whose articles under the byline MP Dunleavey, appear regularly in “The New York Times”. She also created and leads  “Women in Red”, an online forum which runs every other Wednesday on MSN Money. Women who have reached a debt satiation point come together on a message board and offer each other support, advice, and camaraderie (the public is also invited to post comments). Their goal is to liberate themselves from debt and to achieve what must seem hugely elusive:

financial sanity. If you search MSN’s Commentary Index under MP Dunleavey, you can access some of her columns, with intriguing titles such as, “Help, I can’t afford my life,” and “How rich friends make you feel poor.”

Mia now works mostly from home here in Andes. It was finally taking her own advice that brought her to this point. What had been largely abstract for Mia became translated into action when she and Matthew realized that to maintain their standard of living—in a 5th floor walk-up apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—after the baby came they would both have to work more hours than ever to get by and to afford city rates for daycare. And they wouldn’t see much of each other or the baby. One of Mia’s editors suggested the novel idea that they consider moving to the house they already owned in Andes! With quality of life hanging in the balance, and her own book in the works, the couple did some financial computing and weighing of personal preferences using the very strategies put forth in her book. They determined that Matthew, also a writer, who didn’t like his day job nearly as much as Mia did hers, would become the primary caretaker when the baby arrived, and Mia could work from home. They recognized that these days being a stay-at-home parent is considered a luxury. But they valued the quality of life this arrangement could bring, and realized they could manage with lessened expenses. Now, after15 months of full-time living in Andes—the baby, Connor, turned one on September 25th—they acknowledge the wisdom of their decision. And there have been added bonuses. They hadn’t realized how much they would enjoy being ensconced in a  small town, the easy friendships, and the hidden riches of rural life. As Mia says, “When you start to invest in your happiness, happier things follow.”


Andes Author Mia Dunleavey

Mia will be at The Andes Public Library on Saturday October 27th at 1 PM for a book signing and to chat with folks who come by. You can buy a copy of this delightfully written, as well as extremely useful, book at the signing, online at www.amazon.com, or borrow a copy from the Library.~