More Free Time

Want to turn money into happiness? Buy services that give you more free time…

After surveying 6,000 people in North America and Europe, the researchers found that people who spend more money on time-saving services, like housecleaning or cooking, reported greater life satisfaction. Interestingly, it didn’t matter whether the people were rich or poor.

“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” said senior author Elizabeth Dunn. “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.” 

But was buying time-saving services actually causing people to be happier?

To find out, researchers gave $40 to 60 adults in Canada and told them to spend it time-saving services. The participants had groceries delivered, their homes cleaned. One woman paid the “neighborhood boy” to run errands for her. (Source: Steamboat Grocery Delivery Service)

During the following weekend, researchers gave the same participants another $40 to buy material goods – board games, clothes, wine. The results showed that buying time-saving services left people in better moods than when they bought material goods.

“Our results suggest that buying time boosts happiness by mitigating the effects of time stress — the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day,” wrote study authors Ashley V. Whillans and Elizabeth W. Dunn in the L.A. Times. “The feeling of being pressed for time is typically linked to lower life satisfaction, and we observed this well-established link in the lives of most of the people we surveyed. What’s striking is that the detrimental effect of time stress disappeared among people who used money to buy time.”

In places around the world where personal income is on the rise, free time is becoming something of a luxury. This kind of time stress has been shown to be detrimental to personal health, contributing to insomnia, stress and decreased life satisfaction.

Given the known effects of time stress, it’s strange that more people don’t choose to buy more free time. The researchers note that just 2 percent of the 98 adults they surveyed in Canada said they’d spend their $40 on time-saving services.  READ MORE