Money Buys Happiness… If You Outsource Your Unwanted Chores

happyfaceFirst, you were told that the best way to buy happiness was to buy experiences, not things. Other research then said happiness can come from buying the right things. Here’s another academic study making the rounds (WaPo, NYT): Buying time promotes happiness by Whilans et al, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Abstract:

Around the world, increases in wealth have produced an unintended consequence: a rising sense of time scarcity. We provide evidence that using money to buy time can provide a buffer against this time famine, thereby promoting happiness. Using large, diverse samples from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and The Netherlands (n = 6,271), we show that individuals who spend money on time-saving services report greater life satisfaction. A field experiment provides causal evidence that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. Together, these results suggest that using money to buy time can protect people from the detrimental effects of time pressure on life satisfaction.

The study found that spending money on time-saving activities was more efficient than material purchases in improving life satisfaction and decrease stress. This applied across different countries, careers, and income levels.

Here are some examples of time-saving activities:

  • House cleaner
  • Grocery delivery
  • Dry cleaning, laundry
  • Lawn care
  • Home repair
  • Cooking service
  • Shopping service
  • Shorter commute (taxi vs. bus)
  • Moving services
  • Junk removal services

For example, instead of spending $125 on clothes or gadgets, you’ll be happier if you spend $125 and the house is cleaned for you every two weeks. The more the activity is a chore that you dread doing yourself, the better.

This seems perfectly reasonable. I’m betting most of us have washing machines and dryers. Many also have dishwashers. That’s paying money to save time. I also paid more for a house with a shorter commute. This article about “extreme” commuting (4 hours+ total every weekday) sounded quite horrible. Amazon… enough said.

I must admit, I still have a hard time outsourcing many household tasks. I don’t love doing home repair, but I do like that after something breaks (and I spend a couple of hours on YouTube and trips to Home Depot), I have learned something new. I should think about what tasks I hate doing the most.

Bottom line: You can buy happiness by spending money to have more positive experiences. You can also buy happiness by avoiding negative experiences (i.e. having to spend your time on unpleasant tasks).

Comments

  1. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you buy experiences, assistance, or things…..money sitll buys happiness.

    • Well, you have to buy the right things that lead to shared experiences with loved ones . Buying nice clothes, fancy gadgets, fast cars, that sort of thing, seems to be at the bottom of the list.

      Buying a memorable trip, good. Buying a bike and joining a cycling club with others, good. Paying someone to mow your lawn and rake leaves, apparently also good.

  2. Heather says:

    I drop my laundry off at a fluff and fold service. I hate folding laundry!!!

  3. I recently started having my groceries delivered and the benefits far outweigh the cost. I have more time with my son and less stress on weekends when everyone is trying to shop (I work full time during the week). It has really boosted my quality of life 🙂

  4. Meal subscriptions have really made my family’s evenings much more enjoyable! My 1 year old now is a very good eater thanks to a variety of meals, and we get to eat healthy without having to think about what to make each evening. At first I thought I would never pay for such a thing, but there are so many discounts and coupons available for each week between a plethora of companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, that we rarely spend more than $29 a week for 6 meals of better than restaurant quality food! These companies want your business and it’s crazy how cheap it is right now (these are the good times for meal subscription services — jump on it now!).

    • Interesting about the cost aspect, I probably should have looked more into these meal prep deals during their VC-funded expansionary period when growth is more important than profits. They just never really appealed to me for some reason, living in a gray area between cooking my own stuff and having someone else cook for me completely (and saving time).

      • I guess it works for people who are ok with less diversity in their food.
        One of my coworkers did a 5-meals-a-day plan and it was pretty much the same thing week after week.
        Some people are less picky about their food and such things are awesome for them.

        I am too fickle/get bored easily and have to try different cuisines – Indian, chinese, thai, japanese, mexican, italian etc and i havent found a “meal service” yet quite capable of preparing diverse food.

      • I saw that blue apron also has $7.50 cashback when using ebates.com. Heck of a deal.

  5. This is an extension of “time is money” which it indeed is.. It’s the only currency we are constantly losing. Whether you are fat, thin, white, brown, black, rich, poor…. everyone on the planet has a ticking clock and the importance of spending quality time doing the things you like to do – entertainment, kids, family, spouse, even a job you really like to do can’t be stressed enough.

    I have been blessed with an amazing family and a profession I love to do and I bought my first home last year which is a 5 minute drive from my work….and I was never happier 🙂

  6. Definitely agree with this mindset – we will be talking through our first experiences with Amazon Fresh soon! It is awesome!!

  7. In our family, we have discussed this quite a bit.

    We bought a house a few years ago, a house that needs renovations. Both my wife and I work, and we have a 2-year-old. So needless to say time is a scarce commodity. However, I want to do as much as I can myself in the house, partly to learn, partly to save money. But even if I want to, there’s just not enough time in a day.

    When we have done the calculations, we reach the conclusion that we’re more or less breaking even when we look at cost of someone doing stuff for us compared to the money we bring in working. If we calculate hour for hour, So, yes, this is worth it for us to remove stress and buy peace of mind.

    As others mentioned before me, experiences are also worth spending money on to some extent. What comes to mind for me is to do something for our daughter – go to the zoo or something she likes. Seeing her be happy with things we do is worth the money, since it makes us happy too.

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