Yes, you can buy happiness — if you spend it to save time


What do you spend money on to buy time?

This question was asked of some area residents and here is what they had to say:

“I am old, and I’m not going to spend my time cleaning my house and mowing my lawn,” said Victoria Schwartz, 66, of Grand Junction.

She’d rather pay someone to do the chores and enjoy herself otherwise, relaxing, taking the dogs on long walks and generally “savoring” her time.

Brian Kearns, 30, of Fruita, would rather save time and money together.

He’s taking online college courses in education administration, which is less expensive than attending school traditionally and allows him to save commuting and parking time and be more flexible with the time he dedicates to classes.

Jorge Olivas, 21, of Grand Junction, said he does all his chores himself, because he’d rather save his money than spend it.

While he feels like he doesn’t have as much free time on his hands as he’d like, he tries to stick to a structured daily schedule in order to get everything done and still have free time.

Samantha Swingle, 57, who lives on the Redlands, said she will spend more money on a certain item instead of spending the time to shop around and find the best bargain.

Swingle said her husband will drive to several stores looking for the best deal on a product, but she’d rather go to one place, and if the price seems fair, buy it and be finished.

Similarly, Swingle said her husband will spend time trying to fix something, eventually calling a professional if he can’t fix it.

Swingle said she would rather hire a pro immediately than potentially waste time working on something they can’t fix themselves.

“I like my money — I’d rather do it myself than pay someone to do it for me,” said Kyle Carstens, 42, of Fruita, when asked whether he outsources some of his responsibilities in order to save time.

He added that chores, such as housekeeping and mowing the lawn, help him “defrag” from the pressures of owning his own business. These duties help keep him clear-headed so he can enjoy what time he has.

WASHINGTON — Yes, you can buy happiness — especially if the money saves you time.

People who dole out cash to save time on things like housekeeping, delivery services and taxis are a little bit happier than those who don’t, new research finds.

Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and also ran an experiment, giving people $40 for two weeks. One week, they had to buy something material, like a shirt. The next week, they paid to save themselves time. People said they felt happier after saving time than buying stuff.

“Money can buy happiness if you spend it right,” said University of British Columbia psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn, co-author of a study in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The right way is paying someone else to do the time-consuming drudge work you don’t like, said study lead author Ashley Whillans at the Harvard Business School.

When people do that, they report feeling greater life satisfaction in general and happier that day. But when they buy material objects, it tends not to bring people the happiness they expect, she said.

Lynda Jones, a retired critical care nurse in Indianapolis, has been hiring a housekeeper since she got out of college and said it’s the one thing that kept her from burning out in the high stress job. Now she also has a grocery delivery service.

“It’s not that expensive when you think about what my time costs,” Jones said. “You can always get money. You can’t buy back time.”

Earlier research found that using money to help others or have good experiences — like a spa day or travel — also make people happier than buying things, Dunn and Whillans said.

The survey was done in the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. Except for the United States, the countries rank near the top of global happiness reports.

In general, buying time increases Americans happiness about 0.77 on a 10-point scale, with similar increases in the other countries, Dunn said.

That may not seem like much, but it is statistically significant, Whillans said.

Income doesn’t matter. Rich or poor, spending money to save time seems to make people happier, Whillans said.

And if anything, the data suggested that people with less money were able to get a bigger happiness boost from time-saving purchases than those with more, she said.

Yet, only 28 percent of the people surveyed spent money to save time, an average of $148 per month.

In the $40 experiment, the researchers picked 60 people at a Canadian science museum. When the people spent the money on things, their average happiness score was 3.7 on a five-point scale.

But when they spent it to pay a neighbor’s kids to do yardwork or get lunch delivered or take a taxi rather than a bus, their score averaged 4, a small but statistically significant difference, said Dunn, co-author of the book, “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending.”

Not only is the phrase “money can’t buy happiness” wrong but so is “time is money,” Dunn said.

Earlier studies show people are less likely to volunteer their time or help the environment when they think of time as money, she said.

Outside researchers in happiness praised the research.

“Research shows that people in rich nations are more stressed than people in poor ones, which at first does not seem to make sense. But part of the stress is this time pressure — too much to do and one cannot get everything done,” said happiness researcher Edward Diener at the University of Illinois. “So buying time through purchases makes a lot of sense.”


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