You Can Buy Happiness, So Go Ahead & Order Takeout Tonight

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Some scientists are doing the necessary work of finding out what will truly make us happy. A group of researchers published a paper showing that one way to be happier is to use our hard-earned cash to pay others to do the tasks we don't like. In other words, hire a cleaning service, order takeout, Task Rabbit your closet organization — get someone else to do whatever it is that you loathe, and you'll feel less stressed about time and more satisfied with life.
"Around the world, increases in wealth have produced an unintended consequence: a rising sense of time scarcity," write the authors of "Buying Time Promotes Happiness," which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We provide evidence that using money to buy time can provide a buffer against this time famine, thereby promoting happiness."
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To reach this conclusion, the researchers actually conducted a few studies. They surveyed 4,500 people in the U.S., the Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada, asking about their levels of time-related stress, how they spent their money (on material goods or time-saving purchases), and their life satisfaction. The results of one survey showed that 28 percent reported spending money on saving time, and those people were more satisfied with their lives than the rest. They conducted another survey of 1,800 Americans, expanding their question about time-saving purchases, so that 50 percent of the respondents said they'd made such purchases, and they too, reported greater satisfaction.
Then the scientists conducted an experiment in which they gave about 60 Canadians $40 to spend on a weekend, randomly assigning them to spend it on either a time-saving purchase or a material good. That evening, they reported on whether they felt positive or negative affect and their level of time stress. As expected, the time-saving buyers reported feeling more positive at the end of the day.
This doesn't mean that you should order takeout if you love to cook, or that you need to take a cab if you'd rather ride a bike to work. The point is to find a buffer between you and the time-consuming things that suck the joy out of your life.
"If there’s some task that just thinking about it fills you with dread, then it’s probably worth considering whether you can afford to buy your way out of it,” University of British Columbia Professor Elizabeth Dunn, one of the authors of the paper, told the New York Times.
These results hold up across all income levels, the researchers said (though they admitted there were few very low-income participants in the studies). But it seems many people are missing out on this concept.
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"Despite the potential benefits of buying time, many respondents allocated no discretionary income to buying time, even when they could afford it: just under half of the 818 millionaires that we surveyed spent no money outsourcing disliked tasks," the authors note. Maybe if they find the time to read this, they'll change their ways.
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