Money Won’t Make You Happy, Unless You Use It to Buy Time

Time is money, they say. But what’s less often talked about is that things go in the other direction too: money is time. That is, if you have enough money, you can always buy more free time.

And according to new research, buying time is pretty much the best thing you can do with money.

In a new study published in PNAS, a team of psychology and business researchers examined how over six thousand people from four countries spent their money, and how their spending affected their happiness.

The researchers were especially interested in how people used their money to buy time – for example, by delegating household chores. As the researchers pointed out, the ability to buy time is becoming more accessible thanks to the “sharing economy.”

It turned out that half the participants in the survey reported “buying time” in one way or another on a monthly basis. Most commonly, people reported spending extra money to cut back on time cooking, shopping, and doing household chores. On average, people spent between $80 and $99 a month on … well, time.

And it was money well spent. In the course of the study, it emerged that spending more of one’s income on services that helped save time was correlated with greater life satisfaction. On top of that, it turned out that spending money on time-saving services subsequently increased people’s happiness significantly more than spending money on material possessions.

The upshot is that while you can’t buy happiness, you can buy time – which might be pretty close. This study is worth paying attention to because, in the words of the researchers, it “reveals a previously unexamined route from wealth to well-being.”

And that route is? “Spending money to buy free time.”

Image: Flickr/Pictures of Money