New research is contradicting the old adage that money can’t buy happiness. Apparently, you can spend your way to greater life satisfaction and well-being.
The catch is that you can’t do it by buying stuff.
You have to buy time. Pay someone to cut the grass or clean the house, shell out for the toll road to avoid sitting in traffic, hire help for the mundane tasks you don’t enjoy so that you have more time to spend on the things that actually matter to you.
The study, led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 adults in Canada, the U.S., Denmark, and the Netherlands about how much they spend monthly to buy themselves more free time. Participants also rated their life satisfaction and reported how stressed they feel over not having enough time to get things done.
The results revealed a distinct correlation between increased spending on ways to have more free time and a greater overall life satisfaction.
The researchers then tested the theory on 60 working adults in Vancouver. They gave the participants $40 each on two consecutive weekends. They were told to spend the money on buying something one weekend and use it for a time-saving service the other weekend.
After making each purchase, participants received a phone call and reported their feelings of positive affect, negative affect, and time stress on that day.
People reported greater daily well-being after making a time-saving (vs. material) purchase, and they experienced lesser feelings of time-stress that day.
The results were the same regardless of what item people purchased on the material goods day or what their socio-economic background is. Across a range of income levels, careers and countries, time-saving purchases reduced people’s time-related stress and gave them greater levels of satisfaction.
You always knew you didn’t want to cut the grass or paint the house. Now science confirms that hiring somebody else to do it for you really can make you happier.