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We Need More Money, Less Work, And Fewer Cars: The 15 Most Popular Stories Of 2015

And please remember, you should pay for experiences–not things.

If there is one thing we’ve learned in 2015, it’s that people are hungry to understand how to use their limited resources to make themselves the happiest. The answer is very clear: Spend that money on interesting experiences. Take a class, go on an adventure, see some culture. Science says these experiences will stay with you longer and do more to contribute to your long-term happiness than buying a bigger TV or some extra clothes (this is extra worth remembering around the holiday season).

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In a year that was often not particularly joyful, some interesting projects brought us at least a little hope and excitement. One of the world’s first vertical farms took root in Wyoming, a proposal for turning old tanker ships into housing sparked people’s imaginations, and doctors got closer to stopping aging.

But what got people most excited (besides the prospect of working a six-hour day!) was getting rid of cars. A look at seven cities that are working on projects to limit car use–and another story about one South Korean neighborhood that eliminated its auto traffic–sparked discussion about how we can move away from our car culture. It seems everyone is excited to hear about other people getting rid of cars, but maybe slightly less excited to actually get rid of their own. But as more cities’ projects see successful implementation, more people will come around.

But the main theme of the year has to be income inequality. Today, many people are working harder to make less. Sweden’s experiments with a six-hour work day gave everyone a little hope that our always-on culture might be turning around. Learning what colleges offer the best chance of a higher salary and seeing what kind of house $300,000 can buy you in different places around the world illustrate a need to make more money–or to find ways to make the money we have stretch further.

What’s the solution to all of this? It might just be a universal basic income, where the government guarantees a basic salary to every citizen regardless of their situation. It was a mostly obscure idea at the start of the year that is starting to gain traction. Could 2016 be the year it starts getting mainstream political attention?

Take a look at our 15 most popular stories of the year:

Justin Lewis/Getty Images

1: The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things

You don’t have infinite money. Spend it on stuff that research says makes you happy.

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f11photo via Shutterstock

2: Forget Harvard: Here’s Where To Go To College If You Want A High-Paying Job

Prestige isn’t everything.

FLICKR USER CHRIS YUNKER

3: 7 Cities That Are Starting To Go Car-Free

Urban planners are finally recognizing that streets should be designed for people, not careening hunks of deadly metal.

Sarah Salmela/Getty Images

4: One Of The World’s Top Aging Researchers Has A Pill To Keep You Feeling Young

Elysium Health hasn’t discovered the fountain of youth, but their new supplement—with the backing of some of the world’s foremost authorities on aging—could change how you get older.

Volt Collection via Shutterstock

5: Why Sweden Is Shifting To A 6-Hour Workday

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Be more focused, have fewer meetings—and then go home early. It sounds like a dream, but it can work.

David Greitzer via Shutterstock

6: California Is Sitting On The Solution To Its Drought Problem

There’s a lot of water around, it just needs to be put to better use.

7: A Vacant Lot In Wyoming Will Become One Of The World’s First Vertical Farms

A unique conveyor belt design allows the three-story greenhouse to be efficient and sustainable, providing jobs and fresh produce to the Jackson community.

courtesy of Chris Collaris, Ruben Esser, Sander Bakker and Patrick van der Gronde

8: These Beautiful Floating Villages Are Made From Old Oil Tankers

Inspiring the world toward a future without oil.

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Adam Hester/Getty Images

9: The 7 Reasons That Science Says You Should Pay For Experience, Not Things

Planning a vacation this summer? You’ve chosen to spend your money in the way that’s going to give you the most happiness.

10: While We’re Doing The Flags, Here Are Some Other Confederate Things We Should Get Rid Of

A frat that honors Jefferson Davis. A U.S. senator who loves Jefferson Davis’s desk. A giant, giant carving of Jefferson Davis. Stop with the Jefferson Davis.

courtesy TED

11: At TED, Monica Lewinsky Talks Cyberbullying And How She Almost Lost Her Life

One of the first victims of the digital revolution finally recounts her tale—and receives a standing ovation.

Andrew J. Nilsen for Fast Company

12: A Universal Basic Income Is The Bipartisan Solution To Poverty We’ve Been Waiting For

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What if the government simply paid everyone enough so that no one was poor? It’s an insane idea that’s gaining an unlikely alliance of supporters.

Alexmisu via Shutterstock

13: What Kind Of House Does $300,000 Get You Around The World?

Take a tour of global real estate markets, where 300 grand can buy you a mansion or a walk-in closet.

Stanislaw Pytel/Getty Images

14: What Is Generation Z, And What Does It Want?

And you thought you had just figured out millennials. It’s time to start wringing your hands about the new generation that’s about to enter the workforce. What do they even want?

via The Urban Idea

15: Here’s What Happened When A Neighborhood Decided To Ban Cars For A Month

Everyone loved it, obviously. And the world didn’t fall apart.

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About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly FastCoExist.com.

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