Investing in Time Rather than Things, for Happiness

Posted by davidjsinger - December 6, 2017 - Be Happy, Happiness - No Comments

I’ve written many times about the importance of investing in experiences instead of things—about the way spending your time and money on experiences rather than accumulating “stuff” will lead to greater happiness.

A new study has reinforced that notion, showing that using money to buy yourself more time results in greater happiness than using money to buy things.

In summary, the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America, reports the following:

Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time, undermining well-being…the time famine of modern life can be reduced by using money to buy time…spending money on time-saving services is linked to greater life satisfaction…working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase…well-being: spending money to buy free time.

In one of several articles I read on the study (in the Washington Post), Sanford DeVoe, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who studies the psychological effects of placing a monetary value on time (but was not involved with this study), said even people who can clearly afford to, often fail to outsource excess work.

Ashley Whillans, a social psychologist, and the study’s lead author, suspects the abstract nature of time may be to blame. “We always think we’re going to have more time tomorrow than we do right now,” she said to the Washington Post, “so we’re hesitant to trade money, which is concrete and measurable, for time, which is much more uncertain.” For example, when you pay someone to clean your house, you know how much it costs to hire them, but it’s hard to measure the additional happiness you gain from the saved time.

If you are concerned you can’t afford the money to outsource tasks you dislike, such as housecleaning, perhaps you can barter. As I wrote in my book, when our kids were young, my wife did some informal bartering. For example, she helped a family member organize things in her house, a task my wife is very good at, and that family member helped shop for clothes for our kids, a task my wife found frustrating.

What are your experiences with investing in time? Please join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,

David