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To boost happiness, buy yourself the gift of time

Kelly Dilworth

If you have a little money to spare, you will get a bigger emotional boost if you spend it on goods and services that save you time and energy. That’s the key takeaway of a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the study findings ring true to me.

For example, expenses that make life easier, such as cleaning services, prepackaged foods and time-saving devices, can improve your happiness.

“Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time,” the study authors wrote. As a result, people tend to feel more stressed and anxious, in part because they feel like they have less control over their circumstances. That, in turn, is causing people’s overall well-being to suffer.

There’s hope, though. The study found that when study subjects spent $40 on time-savers such as housekeeping or grocery-delivery services, they felt significantly happier than when they spent the same amount of money on less practical luxuries.

The time-savers also free people up to have more time to devote to activities that are more meaningful.

“It might seem obvious that eliminating miserable tasks from daily life should reduce time stress and promote happiness,” study authors Elizabeth W. Dunn and Ashley V. Whillans wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. “Yet, we were surprised to discover, even people who can readily afford time-saving services often don’t spend money on them.”

According to Dunn and Whillans, some people feel lazy when they outsource boring chores. But if you can afford it, go for it, they say.

“Don’t think about time-saving services as the lazy option,” write Dunn and Whillans. “Think of buying time as an escape hatch from the excessive time pressure of modern life.”

It works for me
As a longtime convenience-seeker, the study’s findings struck a chord.

For years, I’ve sought out smaller homes in more convenient neighborhoods because I’ve found that being closer to the grocery store and other places I frequently visit makes me feel happier and more satisfied with where I live.

I also spend more money on convenience foods, such as pre-cut fruits and vegetables, because the time I save slicing, dicing and chopping helps me feel less overwhelmed by the need to feed my small family of three.

I’m also convinced I live a healthier, more well-rounded lifestyle because I’m spending more of my discretionary income on time-saving goods and services. I doubt, for example, that I’d have as much time to exercise if I was constantly making meals from scratch or spending more time on the road.

Time-savers can help others, too
For some people, buying extra time could even be good for their relationships. For example, my sister swears that hiring occasional help with housekeeping has brought more harmony to her household.

Not everyone can afford to spend their discretionary income on cleaning services or meal delivery services, but if you’ve got some extra cash and are trying to decide between a new outfit and a subscription grocery delivery service, try the delivery service.

You may be happier and freer to do things you really want to do.

See related: Save money by having groceries delivered? Yes!, A little retail therapy can combat anxiety, Spending money on stuff gets short shrift

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