We’ve all heard the trope that money can’t buy you happiness, but the truth is that it can. When we spend our money in a way that gives us more time to spend how we see fit, the control we gain provides us with an opportunity to be happier.
We talk about the concept of leverage here at The ONE Thing all of the time. After all, we are big proponents of using our time in the most effective way possible, especially when it frees us up to focus on what matters most. Applying leverage to your life can take shape in a number of different ways, from hiring an assistant to handle your calendar and emails, to paying to have a housekeeper clean up your home when you’re not around. When you’ve maxed out what you can accomplish, leverage is the only way for us to break through our ceiling, giving us more time, sanity, and happiness. So when we came across some studies that actually tested this theory, we were intrigued by what they had to say.
Researchers conducted two separate tests to see whether people are happier when they spend money on time-saving services or when they spend it on material items. In the first test, they recruited 60 people and gave them $40 to use over two consecutive weekends. Over the course of one weekend, the people were asked to spend the money in a way that would give them more free time, be it a meal delivery service, cleaning services, or help with errands. The other weekend the group was asked to spend their $40 on a material purchase like a shirt they’d been coveting or a new hair care product. At the end of the experiment, researchers found that when participants spent money on time-saving services, they reported more positive emotions with reduced feelings of time-related pressure and stress.
Next, researchers gave 6,000 people from a variety of income brackets in the US, Europe and Canada a survey that asked questions about whether they spent money each month in a way that would increase their free time, how much money they spent, and to rank their own level of happiness on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the happiest). While the average response varied, most people ranked themselves around a 6 to 8 on the happiness scale. However, people who spent money to buy time reported being almost one full point higher on the scale than those who did not use money to buy time. The researchers concluded, “Respondents who spent money in this way reported greater life satisfaction.” And this finding is a big deal!
That people would report less stress and greater happiness when they buy time in their lives is a no brainer for us. After all, when people purchase time-saving services, they are using leverage to free up their time so they can invest their energy in things they want to be doing, not things they have to do. And when a person feels less of a time crunch and can participate in the activities that matter most to them each day, they are likely to feel more satisfied with how their day went. This means greater feelings of happiness day over day, week over week, and even year over year.
We can certainly relate to these feelings here at The ONE Thing. In fact, we know first-hand that these trade-offs impact our own happiness levels. Not too long ago, we posed a question to our co-workers and spouses about what would make us happier: Would we prefer a full day being pampered at the spa or a month of someone else doing the weekly housecleaning for us (assuming that we would either spend 8 hours at a spa or 2 hours per week cleaning)? The choice was easy. We’d be happier if we could avoid cleaning those toilets and floors for a month versus going to the spa for an outing. After all, while the brief respite would be nice, the housework will still be waiting for us to tackle when we get home. Our non-scientific experiment echoed the findings of one of the study researchers, who noted that while there is something to be said for benefiting from pleasant experiences, “our research suggests people should also consider buying their way out of unpleasant experiences.”
How do you buy yourself time in your own life? If it’s something you’d like to do, but don’t know where to start, or want to treat someone else to, stay tuned in the coming weeks for our guide for gifting people back time at the holidays!