Buying free time (not material stuff) is the key to happiness

Cross that shopping window off your computer screen [Photo: Pexels]

Ah, that illusive ‘happiness’ thing everyone’s always talking about.

People say that money can’t buy it – assuming that means spending it on clothes and trendy furniture – and they’re probably right.

But if you use that money to buy time? That’s another thing altogether.

According to new research, it’s not acquiring material goods that make us happier, but buying more spare time.

So… it can buy happiness? [Photo: Pexels]

In an experiment, people that were asked to spend $40 (£30) on paying for someone else to do time-consuming activities such as cleaning and chores were happier than those asked to spend the money on material things.

The research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences had more than 6,000 adults in the US, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands (including 800 millionaires) answer questions on how much money they spent on saving time.

It’s pretty, but it won’t necessarily make you happy [Photo: Pexels]

And they discovered that less than a third of them spent money on the latter each month yet those that did reported greater life satisfaction.

Next, researchers had 60 working adults in Canada take part in a two-week experiment.

On one weekend, they were told to spend $40 (£30) on something that would save them time – such as on cleaning, paying local kids to do errands for them, or having food delivered to them at work.

Money coppers in pile
Does this mean we’re screwed if we have cash flow problems? [Photo: Pexels]

On the second weekend, they were told to spend the same amount on material things like clothes, wine and books.

And they found that saving time – and reducing feelings of ‘time stress’ – made them happier than buying objects.

No, buying a new smartwatch doesn’t count [Photo: Pexels]

“Money can in fact buy time. And it buys time pretty effectively,” Professor Dunn, who worked on the study, told the BBC.

“And so my take home message is, ‘think about it, is there something you hate doing that fills you with dread and could you pay somebody else to do that for you?’

“If so, then science says that’s a pretty good use of money.”

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