Money CAN buy you happiness – in the shape of time, scientists say

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Money can buy happiness if you spend it on gaining more time, a new study has found.

In research which could potentially put to bed the popular adage that you cannot buy happiness, one academic in Canada has linked the two.

She found that while money does automatically guarantee being happy, if it is spent on gaining more free time – rather than possessions – people will have a greater chance of contentment.

Dr Ashley Whillans, a Harvard Business School professor who carried out the study while at the University of British Columbia, surveyed more than 6,000 people in the US, Denmark, Canada and the Netherlands.

She asked them questions about stress, life satisfaction and how much money they spent each month to buy free time, for example hiring other people doing their household chores.


Hiring someone else to do household chores can help boost happiness. (Shutterstock / Dmitry Kalinovsky)

“People who hire a house cleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy,” said Dr Whillans. “But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money.”

Psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn, a senior author of the study, said: “The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people.

“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.”

The researchers also carried out an experiment, giving 60 adults $40 to spend on something to save time on one weekend, and $40 on a material possession another weekend.

The results showed people felt happier when they had saved time, not bought a material purchase.

But those behind the study said they were surprised to find a different trend among how people to choose to spend their money.

A survey found nearly half of 850 millionaires reported spending no money on tasks , while only two per cent would spend a bonus $40 on saving time.

“Although buying time can serve as a buffer against the time pressures of daily life, few people are doing it even when they can afford it,” said Dr Dunn. 

“Lots of research has shown that people benefit from buying their way into pleasant experiences, but our research suggests people should also consider buying their way out of unpleasant experiences.”

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