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A HARVARD PROFESSOR SAYS BUYING TIME PROMOTES HAPPINESS

Straight from the experts.

March 6, 2019

Most of us overlook a simple way to be happier because it costs money. Eliminating stressful things from your to-do list frees up time for more meaningful activities like spending time with family or friends, which can lead to more happiness. Many of us ignore simple ways to be happy because spending the money makes us feel guilty. Read more on our CAN’T BUY HAPPINESS story.

We all want more time to spend doing things we enjoy.

When you are deciding how to spend your money, consider buying some more time. Harvard researchers found that spending money on convenience items and time-saving services can lower stress and make us happier.

In two surveys of more than 6,000 people in the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, the researchers found that when people spent money to save time, (such as ordering takeout food, taking a taxi or Uber, hiring household help or paying someone to run an errand) they were happier than those who didn’t.

Now it’s possible that people who can afford time-saving help are happier to begin with. But in another experiment, Canadians were given $80 over two weekends and told to spend it on material items or time-saving purchases. The time-savers had less time-related stress and a bigger increase in well-being.

But even very wealthy people can sometimes feel reluctant and guilty about the indulgence of spending money on a crew of home help, messengers and other helpers. But do it anyway if you can afford it. Giving yourself the gift of more time, if you can afford it, is a quick and convenient way to a happier life.

If you want to spend money wisely, consider paying someone to do things that have to be done like your laundry or grocery shopping.

With things that have to be done, outsource them. Making curtains, ironing, cooking – don’t do it badly, just pay someone to ensure it gets done. But according to Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans, we aren’t doing the one thing that can afford us more time: spending money to eliminate our most stressful daily or weekly tasks.

During a podcast with the Harvard Business Review’s Curt Nickisch, Whillans says using money to buy ourselves out of negative experiences is one of the fastest growing trends, like washing and folding laundry, cleaning house, ironing, starching linen tablecloths, painting a window frame.

Even cleaners need cleaners.

For Whillans, it’s opting for a pricier apartment close to work, where everything is within walking distance and there’s no tedious commute, she said. Whillans’ research shows that “buying time” in this way leads to greater happiness and less stress. But often, something is holding us back.

“I find in my studies that people feel really guilty about outsourcing even though they’re giving up money to have more time that they have earned.”

Paying someone to deliver meals, wash and fold our laundry, or mow the lawn makes us feel like a burden, she said. We also feel like it shows others we’re not capable of doing our own chores.

The best way to counteract those feelings of guilt, is to focus on the value you’re gaining. The key to ensuring that free time leads to greater happiness is to make it meaningful.

Just the simple act of thinking about giving up money to have more free time seems to make people plan their time a little bit better. If I’m going to incur this cost to have this free time, then I’m going make sure I really enjoy the free time that I have.

Whenever we open our wallet, we should be asking ourselves “Is this money changing the way that I spend my time?”

If you spend money wisely, you could end up happier and less stressed.

We all want more time to spend doing things we enjoy. Give your money, not yourself. Don’t feel guilty when you’re too busy to help out at the school canteen or with kindergarten. If a donation makes you feel better, give generously.

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