New Research Shows Money Really Can Buy Happiness

Paying people to do your time-consuming chores makes you happier.

July 25, 2017 9:34 am
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(Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
Photothek via Getty Images

An international research team has disproven the age-old saying “money can’t buy happiness” by showing that you really can make yourself happier when you pay other people to do your time-consuming chores.

Whether you are rich or poor, if you feel stressed about time, your life satisfaction can be improved by trading money for precious minutes, the study says.

The research was led by Ashley Whillans, a professor at the Harvard Business School and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers surveyed nearly 4,500 people from four countries — the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands — about whether they paid other people to do “unenjoyable daily tasks” in order to “increase their free time.”

Twenty-eight percent of the cases said yes. Those people each spent an average of $147.95 per month to buy themselves extra time.

The people who paid for more time were found to be more satisfied with their life than their counterparts who didn’t, reports the Los Angeles TimesThey were also less likely to say they felt “time stress.” Time stress is a condition that the study found linked with lower levels of life satisfaction.

The researchers were worried that the study was too narrow, so just in case, they conducted a second survey of more than 1,800 Americans. The participants were asked whether they spend money to buy themselves “free time.”

Over half the survey-takers in the second round said yes. They each spent an average of $80 to $99 so that other people would cook, clean and shop for them. Again, these people were more satisfied with their life than those who responded no, because those who responded no were stressed out their lack of free time.

Finally, Whillans and her team did one more study using working adults in Vancouver. For two straight weekends, researchers gave these volunteers $40 to spend. During one of the weeks, the volunteers were asked to spend it on a material purchase. In the second week, they were asked to spend it on something that would say them time.

Afterward, the volunteers reported less time-related stress during the week they bought themselves time than in the week they bought a material good. They also had more positive feelings, like joy, and fewer negative feelings, like anger, during during the week they bought themselves time.

“Making a time-saving purchase caused improvements in daily mood,” the researchers wrote, according to The Los Angeles Times. “Improvements in daily mood should promote greater life satisfaction.”

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