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Buying Free Time (Not Material Objects) Is the Key to Happiness

Ah, that elusive happiness thing everyone’s always talking about.

People say that money can’t buy it — assuming that means spending money on clothes and trendy furniture — and they’re probably right.

But if you use money to buy time? That’s another thing altogether.

According to new research, it’s not acquiring material goods that make us happier, it’s buying more spare time.

Use your hard-earned cash to buy yourself some free time. (Photo: Pexels)

In an experiment, people who were asked to spend $40 paying someone else to do time-consuming work, such as cleaning and chores, were happier than those asked to spend the money on material things.

The research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences had more than 6,000 adults in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands (including 800 millionaires) answer questions about how much money they spent saving time.

Material items are pretty, but they won’t necessarily make you happy (Photo: Pexels)

The researchers discovered that less than a third of the study subjects spent money on carving out free time for themselves each month — yet those who did reported greater life satisfaction.

Next, researchers had 60 working adults in Canada take part in a two-week experiment.

On one weekend, they were told to spend $40 on something that would save them time — such as cleaning, paying local kids to do errands for them, or having food delivered to them at work.

Money coppers in pile
How do you find happiness? Do less chores. (Photo: Pexels)

On the second weekend, they were told to spend the same amount on material things, such as clothes, wine, or books.

The researchers again found that saving time — and reducing feelings of “time stress” — made people happier than buying objects.

This watch is chic, but your money might be better spent on a meal delivery kit. (Photo: Pexels)

“Money can in fact buy time. And it buys time pretty effectively,” Professor Dunn, who worked on the study, told the BBC.

“And so my take home message is, “Think about it: Is there something you hate doing that fills you with dread and could you pay somebody else to do that for you?’

“If so, then science says that’s a pretty good use of money.”

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