Buy time, get happiness

Buying Time Promotes Happiness,
Princeton University Press, June 2017;
Ashley V. Whillans, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Paul Smeets, Rene Bekkers, Michael I Norton

Take, buy, enjoy…time

Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time, undermining well-being. We show that the time famine of modern life can be reduced by using money to buy time. Surveys of large, diverse samples from four countries reveal that spending money on time-saving services is linked to greater life satisfaction. To establish causality, we show that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. This research reveals a previously unexamined route from wealth to well-being: spending money to buy free time.



Through the WI Lens

We spend our lives pondering decisions on whether to place more value on money or on time (for example: shall I live nearer to the office and pay more rent, or do the opposite?). However, we are generally not very good at investing in time: if we pay someone to fix something in the house or to mow the lawn, we know exactly what we lose in monetary terms but we find it hard to assess how much we gain in terms of life satisfaction (a shorthand for happiness). This new study shows that timesaving purchases (spending money to buy time) are correlated with increased life satisfaction. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in our “always-on” world in which time is becoming an ever scarcer commodity. As a result we now place more value on time, which in turn suggests that all the activities that allow us to regain possession of time (paying for it, but also engaging in activities that make us feel in control of it like walking) will increase our sense of wellbeing. The take-away for the wellbeing industry: don’t rush your clients!

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