Money Can Buy Happiness? It’s About Time.

New Research Reveals a Previously Unexamined Route to Happiness: Spending Money to Buy Time

If you were given $40 on the condition that you had to spend it, what would you spend it on? What type of purchase do you think would increase your happiness?

Man holding money and smiling, symbolizing his happiness

If you’re like 98% of people studied, you wouldn’t choose to spend the $40 on time-saving services such as someone else cleaning, shopping, or cooking for you. But new research suggests you might want to rethink that decision.

New Study Concludes that Buying Time Promotes Happiness

Earlier this month, a team of researchers published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “Buying Time Promotes Happiness.” I found the paper—and especially the rigor of the research and experiments that underlie it—impressive.

Here are some salient points from the article:

Problems:

  1. Time Scarcity. “Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time.”
  2. Time Scarcity Undermines Well-being. Time stress contributes to anxiety, insomnia, obesity, and overall reduced happiness.

Solution:

  1. Buy Time. “Across seven studies with over 6,000 respondents, spending money to buy time was linked to greater life satisfaction.” Ways to “buy time” revolve around purchasing time-saving services such as hiring someone to clean, shop, or cook for you.

How Does Buying Time Increase Happiness?

The article concludes that those who spend money on time-saving purchases regularly feel less end-of-day time pressure. That feeling leads to improved mood. And ongoing improved daily mood promotes greater life satisfaction.

In other words, by spending money to free up time, people felt happier as a result of experiencing less time pressure.

Improving life satisfaction in that way is good. That said, as a blogger ultimately aiming at “what matters most,” I’d go a step further.

In addition to the happiness that comes from having less time pressure, consider the happiness that can come from directing your freed up time to meaningful pursuits, which are inherently life-giving.

Take a friend of mine, for instance. She would feel uncomfortable spending money to have someone clean for her or mow her lawn or the like. Furthermore, doing so would feel like a poor use of money to her.

Many of us can relate. In fact, even among the millionaires the researchers surveyed, only 40% of them spent any money at all on time-saving purchases.

But do you know what makes that same friend of mine happy? Volunteering to care for Syrian refugees.

What if she were to spend money to hire someone to mow her lawn so that she had an extra hour to spend with Syrian refugees? Spending money to buy time in that way would promote her happiness by allowing her to spend more time in a meaningful pursuit.

How to Buy Time

If you’re convinced—or at least intrigued by the idea—that spending money to buy time promotes happiness, here’s what I’d recommend. Give it a try!

Test it out with a $50 time-saving purchase. Or even budget some amount of money each month for six months or a year to spend on time-saving purchases. Take note of whether you feel less time pressure and/or whether you use the purchased time for a meaningful pursuit.

I, personally, have experienced greater life satisfaction through making time-saving purchases. I “buy time” for activities that are important to me such as nurturing my spiritual life and spending more time with my kids.

2 Questions to Ask Yourself

There are many ways to buy time. I’d recommend asking yourself these questions to help identify time-saving purchases that are likely to promote greater happiness in your life:

  1. What Tasks Do You Not Like? Hiring others to do those tasks removes a negative activity from your life, allowing you to replace it with a positive activity.
  2. What Tasks Take an Inordinate Amount of Time? What tasks do you do that take you a lot longer than they would take someone else? You can get a lot of “bang for the buck” by outsourcing such tasks.

6 Ideas for Time-Saving Purchases

In an effort to help you prime the pump for answers to the above two questions, here are some concrete suggestions for time-saving purchases that you might consider:

  1. Administrative Help. Hire a top-rated virtual assistant for $5/hour to do a wide variety of administrative tasks for you. See my post “You Can’t Afford Not to Have a Personal Assistant.”
  2. Grocery Delivery. Have Walmart or a similar service deliver groceries to you. See my post “How to Save $760 on Groceries in No Time.”
  3. Handyman. Hire a handyman for repair work that needs to be done around your house. I’ve done so before (using ProReferral.com) for tasks that handymen can do much quicker than I can.
  4. House Cleaning. A tried and true way of freeing up time, which the article mentions.
  5. Meal Delivery. Have meals kits delivered to you from companies such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, or Plated.
  6. Yardwork. Hire someone to do yardwork you would otherwise do. A high school boy is mowing my lawn as I write this post.

Conclusion

This blog is about putting time and money to use in the pursuit of what matters most. The research paper “Buying Time Promotes Happiness” reveals an under-explored avenue toward what matters most: using money to buy the time for it.

Question: How have you “bought time” before? Has doing so promoted greater happiness? If so, how? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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