How often have you heard the old adage ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ and thought “I bet it could”? I know I have several times. Well it turns out we might have been right.
What does the research say?
New research from the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School suggests that if we use money to buy things to free up our time, such as paying someone to clean our house, cook meals, or other household chores such as the gardening, it gives us greater life satisfaction.
The lead author of the study, Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School carried out the research as a PhD candidate in the University of British Columbia (UBC) department of psychology. He says “People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy,” said. “But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money.”
Who was surveyed?
In excess of 6,000 adults in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark, were asked whether they spent money each month to buy themselves free time, and if so, how much did they spend. They also answered questions about experiencing feelings of time stress and rated their life satisfaction.
Those people who confirmed that they had spent money on services to help them save time and give them more free time to do other things, reported they felt a greater satisfaction with their lives. The effect held up even if they had had to budget carefully to afford this.
UBC psychology professor, and senior author of the study, Elizabeth Dunn, said “The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people… we thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.”
Field study confirmed results
The research team wanted to conduct a field study to test the results of their survey, so they assigned 60 adults to spend $40 on something that would save them time one weekend and another $40 on a material purchase another weekend. The results showed that they felt much happier having spent their cash on the time saving purchase than the material one.
The research team were surprised to find that despite the results, only a few of us choose to spend our cash on things that will save us time on a daily basis. In a sample of 850 millionaires who took part, around half of them said they spent no money at all on outsourcing tasks they didn’t like or took up their time.
Professor Dunn says “although buying time can serve as a buffer against the time pressures of daily life, few people are doing it even when they can afford it. Lots of research has shown that people benefit from buying their way into pleasant experiences, but our research suggests people should also consider buying their way out of unpleasant experiences.”
So what are you waiting for? Spend a little cash and get that cleaner to spritz your house, and a gardener to cut your grass, it’s going to make you happier in the long run.
Written by Sharon Stephens for Practically Positive