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Spending Money in Ways That Increase Happiness

An article from The New York Times article says, “Want to Be Happy? Buy More Takeout and Hire a Maid, Study Suggests.” Does this surprise you?

This past summer, the National Academy of Sciences published a study which found that when you spend money on something that will save you time, you can reduce stress and likely increase your happiness. This is something to consider as we enter the winter holiday season, a time when some people find themselves dealing with stress related to holiday preparations and travel, in addition to their everyday stressors and responsibilities. The findings of this study back up the theme of Happy Money, a book we recommend reading.

When you hear the saying ‘time is money,’ you may think about instances in which wasting time also wastes money. We’d encourage you to reframe your thinking: if you can spend money in ways that give you more time to do the things you want to do, the effect on your happiness may be invaluable. Researchers found that people who spend money to time-savers felt better than people who spend money on material items. Examples of time-savers the can boost your mood include: paying people to do tasks you don’t want to do, taking cabs, and getting takeout.

We would caution that spending in ways that are unwise may cause you more stress in the long run, so if you are on a budget, choose carefully how you will spend to save time. The study found:

“And it didn’t matter if they were rich or poor: People benefited from buying time regardless of where they fell on the income spectrum. (The authors note, though, that may not hold true for the poorest of the poor.)”

Research has also shown that while you can increase happiness when you spend money that saves time, the happiness you feel may depend on your values. Researchers speculated that some people won’t spend on time-savers even if they have the money because they feel shame about having someone else do work they could do themselves. If you feel a certain sense of accomplishment doing things on your own or if you think hiring help will cause you to lose face among your peers, you may not benefit as much from using money to save time.