Turns out that money can buy hap­pi­ness

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Jenna Gal­le­gos

If you were given $40 on the con­di­tion that you had to spend it on some­thing that would make you re­ally happy, what would you do with the money? Some peo­ple might go shop­ping, oth­ers would treat them­selves to din­ner or a movie, a few might even do­nate to cause. But what about us­ing that $40 to buy your­self more free time?

Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished Mon­day in the jour­nal PNAS, peo­ple who buy time by pay­ing some­one to do house­hold tasks are more sat­is­fied with life. And it’s not just wealthy peo­ple. Across a range of in­comes, ca­reers and coun­tries, time­sav­ing pur­chases were cor­re­lated with less time-re­lated stress and more pos­i­tive feel­ings.

Yet the re­searchers’ sur­veys showed that very few in­di­vid­u­als think to spend money in this way.

Ash­ley Whillans, a so­cial psy­chol­o­gist and the study’s lead au­thor, says she is “to­tally ob­sessed” with peo­ple’s de­ci­sions of whether to place more value in time or money.

Whillans and her col­leagues at Har­vard Univer­sity col­lab­o­rated with re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia and two in­sti­tutes in the Nether­lands to con­duct seven sur­veys of more than 6,000 re­spon­dents in four coun­tries. The sur­veys asked peo­ple whether they reg­u­larly pay some­one else to com­plete un­pleas­ant daily tasks and rated their sat­is­fac­tion with life.

Across all sur­veys, life sat­is­fac­tion was typ­i­cally higher for peo­ple who reg­u­larly spend money to save time. This was true re­gard­less of house­hold in­come, hours worked per week, mar­i­tal sta­tus and num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing at home.

Even af­ter con­trol­ling for to­tal dis­pos­able in­come by com­par­ing the amount par­tic­i­pants spend on ne­c­es­sary pur­chases such as gro­ceries, un­nec­es­sary pur­chases and life ex­pe­ri­ences, work­ing adults in the U.S. re­ported higher life sat­is­fac­tion if they reg­u­larly paid to out­source house­hold tasks such as cook­ing, shop­ping and gen­eral main­te­nance.

To directly test whether time­sav­ing pur­chases can boost hap­pi­ness, the sci­en­tists in the lat­est re­search re­cruited 60 work­ing adults in Van­cou­ver and gave them $40 on each of two con­sec­u­tive week­ends. They were told to spend the money on a ma­te­rial pur­chase one week­end and a time­sav­ing ser­vice an­other week­end (in vary­ing order).

Com­pared with the days when they bought stuff, most par­tic­i­pants re­ported that their time­sav­ing pur­chases were ac­com­pa­nied by an in­creased pos­i­tive ef­fect, a de­creased neg­a­tive ef­fect and less time stress.

De­spite this, when re­searchers asked an­other group of 98 work­ing adults in Van­cou­ver how they would spend $40, only 2 per­cent men­tioned buy­ing them­selves more time.

San­ford DeVoe, who was not in­volved with the study, called this a “re­ally stun­ning find­ing.” DeVoe, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los Angeles, stud­ies the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of plac­ing a mone­tary value on time. He was struck by the fact that even peo­ple who can clearly af­ford to don’t out­source ex­cess work. This adds to a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence show­ing that “peo­ple don’t spend their money to yield the great­est hap­pi­ness,” he said.

Most adults feel they are short on time, and many cite the same as a rea­son for anx­i­ety, in­som­nia and even obe­sity. So why are we so re­luc­tant to con­sider in­vest­ing in time cap­i­tal?

“Peo­ple are no­to­ri­ously bad at mak­ing de­ci­sions that will make them hap­pier,” Whillans said. She sus­pects the ab­stract na­ture of time may be to blame. “We al­ways think we’re go­ing to have more time to­mor­row than we do right now.”

Matthew Mead, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Re­searchers say that let­ting Blue Apron send you a meal to cook, which saves you time in a gro­cery store, makes you hap­pier.

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