A new study from Harvard Business School says it’s possible money can buy happiness. More specifically using money to buy free time can make people happier. The researchers surveyed people in the U.S., Canada, Denmark and The Netherlands to find out “whether—and how much—money they spent each month to increase their free time by paying someone else to complete unenjoyable daily tasks.” Then those surveyed responded to another questionnaire about “time stress.”
Karen Kaplan summarized the results at the LA Times, writing:
Survey-takers were asked whether they paid other people to do “unenjoyable daily tasks” in order to “increase their free time.”
In 28% of cases, the answer was yes. These folks spent an average of $147.95 per month to buy themselves extra time.
What they lost in currency, they made up for in happiness. Whillans and her colleagues found that the people who traded money for time were more satisfied with life than their counterparts who didn’t. They also were less likely to say they felt “time stress,” a condition that was linked with lower levels of life satisfaction.
Just in case their original question was too narrow, the researchers conducted a second survey that asked more than 1,800 Americans whether they spent money to buy themselves “more free time.”
This time, half of the survey-takers answered yes. These folks spent between $80 and $99 per month, on average, so that others would handle chores like cooking, shopping and “household maintenance.”
As before, the people who bought themselves time were more satisfied with life than those who didn’t. And as before, the people who didn’t employ this strategy were generally less satisfied with life because their lack of free time was stressing them out.
These findings held up even after the researchers took into account the amount of money survey-takers spent on groceries — a variable used as a proxy for discretionary income.
“People across the income spectrum benefited from buying time,” the researchers wrote.
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