August 29, 2017
Along with the old adage, there have been a number of studies concluding that money, indeed, does not buy happiness. It turns out, though, if you spend your money the right way, some purchases could bring greater joy than others.
How? Avoid commodities and put your money into buying time.
According to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, allocating money to buy certain items can bring consumers happiness, but we’re not talking about a bigger TV or a bender at Sephora.
Instead, opting for services that can save you time, such as a home cleaning service, food delivery or just someone to mow the lawn, can give off more happiness than purchasing material goods.
“Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time, undermining well-being. We show that the time famine of modern life can be reduced by using money to buy time,” the study text reads.
“A great deal of attention has been devoted to reducing financial scarcity, but there is relatively little rigorous research examining how to reduce feelings of time scarcity, which in fact may offer a particularly difficult challenge given that time, unlike money, is inherently finite.”
To conduct the study, researchers surveyed 60 adults, all under the age of 70, in Vancouver. For two weekends, participants were given $40 and given certain parameters on how to spend it: One weekend, they were to use the cash for something that would save them time; the next weekend, they had to buy a material good.
Over the two weekends, researchers spoke with study participants and asked their levels of positive versus negative emotions.
“Buying yourself out of [tasks] like mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom – these were pretty small, mundane expenditures, and yet we see them making a difference in people’s happiness,” Elizabeth Dunn, a co-author of the study from the University of British Columbia, told NPR.
To test this theory on a broader scale, the researchers surveyed 6,000 people of varying income levels in the U.S., Canada and Europe, asking how much money people spent – if any – on paying someone else to take care of some of their to-do list.
Those surveyed were also asked to rank their level of happiness on a scale of 1 to 10.
For respondents who admitted to purchases that would give them more free time, the happiness level averaged about a point higher than those surveyed who spent more money on material goods.
Though study authors are hopeful about what these results could mean in improving satisfaction in people’s lives, a lot of questions remain about the long-term effects of the time-saving purchases and whether they remain a relevant, ongoing source of improved happiness.