Throughout our lives, we have been told that money does not buy happiness. However, a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business school think otherwise.
For most of our lives, the accumulation of money is something we are told to strive for, as it is the reason we obtain an education and apply for jobs. If we want something, like a new car, fancy clothing, or the latest tech, we have to spend money to get it. While this does make us happy, it is often fleeting.
But maybe we are spending our money on the wrong thing, The researchers of this study would suggest we buy “time” rather than “things.”
Time is something that no one can actually buy back, but in our busy world, we can choose to pay people to take over some of our responsibilities.
“People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy. But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money,” said study lead author Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School who carried out the research.
Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 adults in the United States, Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands. Participants were asked if and how much they spent each month to buy themselves free time. They also rated their satisfaction depending on what they reported and answered questions about feelings of time stress.
The results of the survey found that those who spent money on time-saving purchases reported greater life satisfaction. What is more amazing is that these benefits were not only seen in wealthy people with disposable income. The effects of increased happiness were found across people with different income brackets.
To better this observation, the researchers devised a field experiment. They chose 60 adults and randomly assigned them to spend $40 on a time-saving purchase on one weekend, and $40 on a material purchase on another weekend.
The results of this test found that those who spend money to save time felt happier compared to those who bought material goods.
“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,” said UBC psychology professor and the study’s senior author Elizabeth Dunn.