Feel Better Spending Time, Not Money

Buying time makes people happier, according to new research.

Although people are healthier and wealthier than ever before, one of the things they cannot buy is time.

In an experiment aimed at investigating if people were happier if they had more time, scientists at the University of British Columbia, Canada, gave test subjects small amounts of cash.

They could choose to spend the money on luxuries or to pay someone to do the jobs they did not like.

The result was working adults reported they felt happier spending to save time rather than buying a luxury.

To prove the test worked, the team carried out their experiment in Canada, the US, Denmark and the Netherlands, with each country returning the same result.

Lack of time is new poverty

Team leader Elizabeth Gunn explained having no time to spare was a new form of poverty for the wealthy.

Stress over finding the time to do what they wanted was making people feel stressed and unhappy, she said.

“Time stress is also a critical factor underlying rising rates of obesity: lacking time is a primary reason that people report failing to eat healthy foods or exercise regularly,” she said.

“In theory, rising incomes could offer a way out of the time famine of modern life, because wealth offers the opportunity to have more free time, such as by paying more to live closer to work.

“A great deal of attention has been devoted to reducing financial scarcity, but there is relatively little rigorous research examining how to reduce feelings of time scarcity, which in fact may offer a particularly difficult challenge given that time, unlike money, is inherently finite.”

Buying time promotes happiness

The test results showed that people from a range of backgrounds, including millionaires, benefitted from spending money on paying someone to do time-saving chores.

“Why does buying time promote happiness? Our experiment provides the clearest window into this process, by demonstrating that people felt less end-of-day time pressure when they purchased time-saving services, which explained their improved mood that day,” said Gunn.

“Despite the potential benefits of buying time, many respondents allocated no discretionary income to buying time, even when they could afford it. Just under half of the 818 millionaires that we surveyed spent no money outsourcing disliked tasks.”

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